Kenyan agencies say Abubakar Sadiq Louw admitted plotting attacks on Western targets
The government alleges he had links to Iran's Quds Force; no immediate comment from Iran
Kenya also says it's looking for a British man who sneaked into the nation to join al-Shabaab
Kenyan security agencies announced Saturday the arrest of two terrorism suspects with alleged links to Iran, claiming that both men admitted plotting attacks on Western targets in the African nation.
Abubakar Sadiq Louw, 69, and Yassin Sambai Juma, 25, are accused of terrorism and espionage on behalf of Iranian state intelligence. The pair “admitted to conspiring to mount terror attacks,” with the government asserting that the men’s targets “included hotels in Nairobi frequently used by Western tourists, businessmen and diplomats.”
Described as a senior figure in the Shiite Muslim community in the capital of Nairobi, Louw was working on behalf of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that has carried out covert operations in other countries, the agencies said. Juma was allegedly one of the students Louw recruited.
There was no immediate comment from the Iranian government.
Louw was arrested October 29, after which the security agencies claimed that “he admitted recruiting young Kenyans to spy and mount terror attacks in Nairobi.”
Juma was taken into custody more recently, on November 19, soon after he’d returned from undertaking “some military training in Iraq,” they said.
2 Iranians accused of planting explosives in 2012
This isn’t the first time Kenyan authorities have linked would-be attacks to Iran.
In 2012, two Iranians were arrested and charged with preparation to commit a felony and possession of explosives without a license. A senior Kenyan government official familiar with the intelligence in that case said the men were in the advanced stages of planning a terrorist attack.
“We don’t allow organizations or countries to commit terror in our country,” the official said, adding that the suspects may have wanted to use Kenya as a transit point to strike in nearby countries.
Court documents indicated that the pair led security officials to 15 kilograms (more than 30 pounds) of RDX explosives hidden at a golf club on the African nation’s coast.
The suspects, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, both denied the charges, said they were wrongly accused and alleged that police had tortured them, according to court transcripts seen by CNN.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast hit back at the accusation from Kenyan authorities as well as a claim by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office that the arrests show “Iranian terror has no borders.”
“When it comes to Iranian nationals,” Mehmanparast said at the time, “coverage of the events are exaggerated.”
Suspected British al-Shabaab fighter wanted
Meanwhile Saturday, the Kenyan security agencies identified a British citizen who they believe entered Kenya to fight with al-Shabaab. That al Qaeda-linked group is based in Somalia but has been behind gruesome attacks elsewhere, including one in the spring at Kenya’s Garissa University College that ended with 147 dead.
Police asked for the public’s help in tracking down Malik Yassin, a Briton who authorities say sneaked into the country, intent on joining up with members of the terrorist group. He wouldn’t be the first of his countrymen to do so; the security agencies pointed to Thomas Evans, an al-Shabaab fighter killed in a foiled attack.
The agencies described Yassin as having dark brown hair, brown eyes and a “Caucasian complexion.”
“To disguise his appearance, he may have shaved his beard … his hair or both,” the government said. “He is tall, slender and speaks with a British accent.”
CNN’s Robyn Kriel reported from Nairobi, and CNN’s Greg Botelho reported and wrote from Atlanta.