July 2, 2012 -- Two Iranian men who led officials to a 33-pound stash of explosives have now allegedly admitted they were plotting to attack U.S., Israel, Saudi or British targets in Kenya, according to the Associated Press.
Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, who appeared in a Nairobi court last week, were arrested on June 19 in Nairobi and then led Kenyan authorities to 15 kilograms of explosives in Mombasa. They are believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, say Kenyan officials.
Last fall, the U.S. disrupted an alleged plot by the Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington. Earlier this year, the Azerbaijani government arrested nearly two dozen Iranians who were allegedly plotting attacks on Western targets, and Thai police arrested a group of Iranian nationals after they allegedly attempted to flee a rented residence where bombs had detonated by flinging explosives at a taxi driver and police. Indian police have identified, but not apprehended, three Iranian suspects in the February bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle. Israeli officials say a similar bomb was found on an Israeli vehicle in Tbilisi, Georgia but was defused.
"After Iran sent its people to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on American soil," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in a statement Monday, "and carry out attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, Tbilisi and New Delhi, now its intention to carry out attacks in Africa is revealed. The international community needs to fight the world's greatest exporter of terror."
One of the Iranian suspects, Ahmad Mohammad, alleged in court last week that the two men had been interrogated by Israeli agents while under arrest. He also said he was tortured while in detention, which a Kenyan prosecutor denied.
Israelis have long vacationed in Kenya, and Israelis own hotels and retail properties in the country. In 2002, 13 people were killed in the bombing of an Israeli-owned beach hotel in Mombasa.
Over the past several years, at least five scientists linked to the Iranian nuclear program have been killed, and Iran has blamed the U.S., the U.K. and Israel for the attacks. Several were killed using magnetic "sticky" bombs attached to vehicles. Some of the apparent reprisal attacks allegedly carried out by Iranian suspects used the same method.
The arrests of Iranian suspects come in the midst of a series of terror attacks inside Kenya. The U.S. embassy issued an alert on June 22, three days after the men were arrested, warning Americans against travel to Mombasa, ordering government workers out of the city and suspending government travel there through July 1.
On Sunday, June 24, attackers killed three people at a bar near Mombasa. On Sunday, July 1, attackers using grenades and firearms killed 10 people at two churches in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa, which is 120 miles from the Somalia border and close to a sprawling Somali refugee camp.
These recent attacks and others like them, often involving grenades, are believed to be the work of al Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate operating in neighboring Somalia. The Kenyan military launched an offensive against the Somali group last fall, and al Shabaab has threatened to level buildings inside Kenya in return.