News / Africa

Kenyan Police Hunting Australian Terror Suspect

Anti-terrorism police units in Kenya are still searching for a Somali-born Australian terror suspect, who escaped earlier this month while in police custody in a town near the Ugandan border.  The incident has prompted the Kenyan government to tighten security throughout the country.

Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe declined to comment on the circumstances that may have led to the escape of the terror suspect Hussein Hashi Farah.  But Kiraithe says every effort is being made to find him.

"We are not going to give you that information at this point in time because investigations are going on.  We have taken a lot of security measures to re-arrest that man," he said.

Anti-terrorism police units are searching towns in and around the western border town of Busia, and authorities say security in all airports and border points in Kenya has been tightened.    

Immigration officials in Busia detained Farah in mid-March, after his name appeared on an international terrorism watch list.  According to local media reports, Farah was in police custody for several days and was about to be transferred to Nairobi when he escaped.  

The Kenyan police spokesman says the terror suspect may have been released by mistake.  He dismissed rumors that Farah had bribed his way out of jail.

The Somali man, who holds an Australian passport, is believed to have been involved in the planning of a suicide attack on an Australian military base last August.  

The attack was foiled and Farah evaded capture in Australia. But several other suspects - all Australian citizens of Somali and Lebanese origins - were subsequently arrested and charged.  The men are alleged to have ties to the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab in Somalia, which is listed as a terrorist group by several Western countries, including Australia and the United States.

There has been no official comment from the Australian government about Farah's disappearance.  But local media reports say it has privately expressed to the Kenyan government its concern and alarm over the apparent security failure.  

The Kenyan government insists it is not allowing Kenya to become a transit point for terrorists.  Government officials say security officials are remaining vigilant, noting that they have detained and arrested more than 15 terror suspects in the past month alone, including a Somali-American on a terrorism watch list.    

A recent U.N. report called Kenya a "major base" for al-Shabab militants, raising questions about the ability of the Kenyan government to secure its borders.  Critics say poorly-paid security and immigration officials are especially vulnerable to corruption.

In January, a radical Jamaican cleric on a terrorism watch list, entered Kenya from Tanzania.  Efforts to deport the cleric sparked riots in Nairobi and in Mombasa, straining relations between the government and Kenyan Muslims.

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