The State Department's annual report on global terrorism highlights
growing U.S. security ties with its east African ally, Kenya, to meet
challenges posed by al-Qaida and al-Qaida supported militants in
neighboring Somalia. One key effort is focused on keeping terrorists
from being able to smuggle in materials to make a "dirty bomb."
State Department report, released Thursday, contains an overview of the
expanding security ties between the United States and Kenya, aimed at
preventing terrorists from staging attacks inside Kenya and
apprehending suspected terrorists.
In the past year, the
United States says it helped the Kenyan army develop a Ranger Strike
Force, an elite counter-terrorism unit capable of conducting operations
against infiltrators and armed groups. The United States also gave
training and unspecified equipment to the Kenyan navy for maritime
interdiction operations in Kenyan waters.
The State Department's
Antiterrorism Assistance program also provided training and equipment
to the country's Maritime Police Unit. The report says the U.S.
military's Djibouti-based Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is
currently installing a Maritime Security and Safety Information System
in key positions along the Kenyan coast.
The measures are
largely in response to threats posed by two al-Qaida operatives, who
allegedly carried out the 1998 attacks on U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and
in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. U.S. intelligence analysts say the
operatives, Comoros-born Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Kenyan national
Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, have eluded capture through the help of
al-Qaida's support network in the coastal region of Kenya and in parts
of the capital, Nairobi.
The rising power of a militant group
called al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia has also added a new security
challenge in the region. Al-Shabab, which currently controls key towns
in southern and central Somalia, was founded several years ago by
al-Qaida-trained Somali radicals and is virulently anti-West.
leadership of al-Shabab is widely acknowledged to be strengthening its
ties with al-Qaida. There are credible reports that al-Qaida has
operatives in various parts of Somalia teaching al-Shabab fighters
techniques to carry out suicide and roadside bombings.
mid-April, Kenya signed a deal, which will allow the United States to
install radiation sensors and other equipment at its busy Mombasa
seaport to detect any nuclear or radiological materials that could be
smuggled in to be used in a weapon. When completed in several months
time, the Mombasa port will join some 20 others in the world
participating in the so-called Megaports Initiative set up by the U.S.
government in 2003.
An expert on nuclear proliferation at the
RAND Corporation in the United States, Brian Jenkins, says because of
its proximity to Somalia and its close ties to the West, Kenya is
vulnerable to the worst-case scenario, where an al-Qaida terrorist
unleashes a "dirty bomb" in Nairobi causing the death of thousands.
do know that al-Qaida has nuclear ambitions," he said. "We discovered
documents that underscored their interest when we overran some of these
al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in late 2001. Actually
building a nuclear device is difficult. But the acquisition of
radioactive material for a so-called 'dirty bomb,' which is radioactive
material that is dispersed with a conventional explosive device, that
is not that challenging. So, yes, there is a threat particularly of
the use of radioactive material, although we have no specific evidence
indicating any capability at this time."
Efforts to combat
terrorism have not been without controversy. The U.S. and Kenyan
governments were harshly criticized by human rights groups for the
illegal detentions of at least 150 people in 2006-2007 as terrorist
suspects. The rights groups say at the request of the United States,
Kenya sent many of the detainees to Somalia and Ethiopia, where some of
them were tortured and held incommunicado for months.