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Kenya Arrests al-Qaida Suspects - 2001-11-12

In Kenya, police have arrested dozens of people suspected of having links with Osama bin Laden.

Kenya's police spokesman Peter Kimanthi says seven people are being interrogated in Nairobi on charges of drug trafficking and terrorist activities. Local press reports say the suspects are being questioned about possible links they may have with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

The suspects were brought to the capital over the weekend from the town of Mombassa, along Kenya's coast.

But these have not been the only arrests. According to local press reports, about 50 people have been arrested along the Muslim-dominated coast since Thursday. The reports say the police are focusing on those who receive money from relatives working in the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia.

Many Muslim leaders have condemned the arrests.

The chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, Sheikh Ali Shee, says the arrests are politically motivated, designed by President Daniel arap Moi to win him favor with the United States. "They are doing the job Bush has requested to be done. That's why they are harassing the Muslims and every Muslim is considered to be terrorist or fundamentalist," he said.

President Moi, who is now in the United States, is an ardent supporter of President Bush's campaign against terrorism. In 1998, terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, killing more than 200 people.

Shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States, President Moi led a demonstration against terrorism in the streets of Nairobi.

Analysts say President Moi, who met with President Bush on Saturday, could be trying to win back favor with the United States, particularly as Kenya's relations with Washington-based donors are at an all-time low.