New details are emerging about the arrest in Kenya of three Dutch
nationals and a Moroccan with Dutch residence status Monday near the
Somali border. The men are accused of trying to aid Somalia's
al-Qaida-linked extremist group, al-Shabab.
Kenyan police say four 21-year-old men, three born in Morocco and the fourth in Somalia, were detained by authorities in the coastal town of Lamu, as they tried to reach the Kiunga area, about 15 kilometers from the border with Somalia.
The men identified themselves as Dutch tourists. But police said there were no tourist sites where the men were found and they did not have tourist visas in their passports.
VOA has learned the police also confiscated several items from the suspects, including two close-circuit television cameras, several digital and professional cameras, and two computer laptops. Police investigators are said to have also retrieved several e-mail messages, believed to have been sent by the suspects to an al-Shabab contact in Somalia.
The police say the men were arrested on suspicion that they were making their way to a terrorist training camp in Somalia run by al-Shabab. The suspects were transferred to the anti-terrorism office in Nairobi after being held for questioning in the port city of Mombasa.
Kenyan government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, declined to confirm the details of the arrests, saying he could not comment on anti-terrorism operations.
"I can confirm that several people have been picked up. There is an operation that is going on. Therefore, we cannot comment on it without jeopardizing the operation. Some of these operations we are carrying out send a clear message that we are not going to allow our country to be used as a launching pad for terror activities or to suffer from terrorism," said Mutua.
Kenya is a close ally of the West in the region, which suffered al-Qaida-related suicide attacks in 1998 and 2002. In recent years, the United States, Britain, and other countries have provided training, equipment and financial assistance to Kenya to help the country establish a strong counter-terrorism capability.
But Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and is home to a large Somali-speaking community. Both are difficult to monitor effectively and western intelligence officials have long worried that extremists and al-Qaida operatives in Somalia could use Kenya to launch another attack.
The threat of terrorism in Kenya has been escalating since 2007, when al-Shabab, which is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, reorganized and began fighting to overthrow Somalia's U.N.-backed government in Mogadishu.
Somali and Western government officials say al-Shabab fighters, who are committed to creating an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate in Somalia, are being backed by hundreds of foreigners who have poured into the country since early this year to take part in what they consider a holy war against the West.