Two Iranians held in Kenya amid terror alert

2014-09-20 12:05
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Nairobi - Authorities in Kenya said on Friday they have arrested two men believed to be Iranian nationals transiting through the east African nation on fake passports.

A counter-terrorism officer told AFP the pair were detained on Thursday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, but that it was not yet established if the pair should be treated as terrorism suspects or illegal migrants.

Security forces in Kenya are currently on high alert as the country commemorates the anniversary of last year's attack by Somalia's al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militia - a hardline Sunni group with no known links to Shi'ite Iran - on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that left at least 67 dead.

"We have been interrogating the two Iranians who are in our custody," said the source.

"They were arrested at the JKIA airport yesterday. They had questionable passports. They are people we need to interrogate further before a decision is made on what to do next," he added.

"We have been on high alert because we fear an attack could be planned when Kenyans are commemorating the Westgate anniversary," the officer added.

An airport security source said that Kenya was regularly used as a transit point for illegal migrants from the Middle East region - mainly Iran, Iraq and Syria - hoping to travel to Europe.

He said the illegal migrants are often caught with fake passports from Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Last month, three Iranian nationals were arrested at Nairobi's JKIA airport while transiting to London on fake Greek passports and were jailed for one year.

Iranians are treated with particular suspicion in Kenya, however, as the east African nation is a close ally of Israel.

Last year, a Kenyan court sentenced two Iranians to life in prison for terror-related charges, including possessing explosives allegedly to be used in bomb attacks.

Read more on:    kenya  |  east africa

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