Police in Kenya say they foiled a potentially “large-scale” terrorist plot to kill innocent civilians using the biological agent anthrax that was planned by an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked cell of jihadi medics seeking to recruit university students.
Kenyan Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet confirmed that medical students and interns who were arrested in connection to the alleged plot were part of an unnamed “East Africa terror group network, that has links to ISIL,” reports the Chronicle.
The terrorist network’s leader was identified by authorities as Mohammed Abdi Ali, a medical student who was interning at the Wote District Hospital in southeastern Kenya, according to BBC. He was arrested last Friday and is to remain in the custody of counterterrorism officials for 30 days, pending further investigation.
Two other suspects were detained by police in Uganda: Mr. Ali’s wife, who is also a medical student, Nuseiba Mohammed Haji, and her friend, Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi.
Ahmed Hish and Farah Dagne, both medical interns, are suspected of being accomplices and remain on the run.
The Chronicle reports that Boinnet said in a statement:
From our initial investigation, it has been established that the terror network linked to Mohammed Abdi Ali has been engaged in the active radicalization, recruitment of university students and other Kenyan youth into terrorism networks. The same network has been facilitating Kenyan youths to secretly leave Kenya to join terror groups in Libya and Syria.
“The suspects were planning large scale attacks … with the intention of killing innocent Kenyans,” he added, according to The Telegraph.
Senior leadership of al-Shabaab has maintained its allegiance to al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda rival ISIS has been vying for the formidable al-Shabaab’s loyalty, prompting defections among the Somalia-based group.
According to the International Business Times, the police chief also said:
Ali’s terror network within Kenya spreads as far as the Coast Region, North Rift Region and Western Region, as well as other countries that include Somalia, Libya and Syria. His network also included medical experts with whom they planned to unleash a biological attack in Kenya using anthrax. His arrest and those of his accomplices is a major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism in Kenya and the region.
In 2011, Kenya deployed its military into Somalia in an effort to assist the neighboring country in its fight against al-Shabaab, a move that prompted the al-Qaeda affiliate to step up operations in Kenya.
Al-Shabaab has reportedly killed more than 900 Kenyans and injured 1,000 others since then.
To date, there has been little evidence of an ISIS presence in Kenya.
Nevertheless, authorities are concerned that ISIS is trying to establish a foothold in Kenya.
Western governments also fear that if the terror group gains decent support and members, ISIS might use Kenya as a base from which to launch attacks on Westerners similar to the Westgate Mall attack or the al Qaeda-linked AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali in 2015.
“Police say at least 20 young Kenyans have traveled to Syria and Libya to join the ranks of ISIS,” it adds. “Kenyan authorities have long worried about radicalization and recruitment of young people in Kenya’s schools and universities.”