Countering Terrorism in East Africa: The U.S. Response

New CRS report which provides an overview of current U.S. counterterrorism assistance programs and influence operations in East Africa and explores some of the strategies underpinning them. It also provides a brief description of the evolving terrorist threat in the region.

Kenyan minister seeks to ease tensions over renditions

(Reuters) Kenya’s justice minister told Muslim leaders that rendition of bomb suspects to Uganda was illegal, seeking to allay fears within a community that fears being increasingly targeted by security agents. Mutula Kilonzo said the transfers, which have angered many Kenyans, violated the east African nation’s constitution. Kilonzo blames Kenya’s attorney general, whose office has the power to arrest and prosecute and oversees extraditions. To date the government has taken no overt steps to bring the suspects back to Kenya. Kilonzo says his ministry has done all it can and the next step lies with the attorney general.

Kenya has handed over 13 suspects in connection with a July 11 bomb attack on the Ugandan capital, Kampala, without following correct extradition procedures, rights groups say. A total of 38 people, including Ugandans, Kenyans and Somalis have been charged with terrorism over the twin suicide bombs that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in July, killing more than 70 people.

Uganda: Terror Charges Against Pakistanis Dismissed

On September 23, 2010, in Uganda, the Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court released two men from Pakistan who had been in custody in the case of the July 11, 2010, bombings in Kampala. Seventy-six people died and many others were injured in the bombing during a World Cup soccer match. The two men were Shaykh Zamir Naufal, who owns a business called Tech-Access Africa, Limited, and Dithan Peter Ntale, who works for Naufal.

State Attorney Joan Kagezi had asked Chief Magistrate Deo Ssejjemba to release the suspects, because the public prosecution office had withdrawn the charges against them. Kagezi said that she had been told to drop the case, as the director of public prosecutions “has lost interest in prosecuting them because there is no sufficient evidence against them.”  Two other men involved in the case, a human rights activist from Kenya, Al-Amin Kimathi, and another Kenyan, Omar Awadh Omar, who is suspected of being a terrorist, were remanded into custody until there is a review of their objection to the plan to transfer them back to the police for questioning. There are still 36 suspects detained in connection with the bombing.

Kenya defends arrests over Uganda World Cup bombing

Kenyan authorities have defended the rendition of suspects to Uganda for trial over July’s bombings, by leaking documents alleging their terror links.The documents, published by Kenyan media, describe an al-Qaeda cell in East Africa and provide details of how the Kampala attack was planned. They say that “tens of youths” from across Kenya have joined the cell, trained in Somalia and fought alongside al-Shabab. The details also suggest that plans for twin attacks on Nairobi have begun.

In recent weeks dozens of Kenyans have been extradited over the suicide attack, which killed some 76 people. Ten of the 36 Kenyan suspects in total have been charged in connection with the attack.

Last week Human Rights Watch reported that two Kenyan activists working on the cases of suspects charged with terrorism for the July 11, 2010 Kampala bombings have been illegally detained in Uganda and are at risk of abuse. The Kenyan activists traveled to Uganda to attend the scheduled hearing of 34 terrorism suspects.

Radicalisation in Kenya

The Washington Post has an interesting article on Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, where the Somali immigrant community lives. Eastleigh, community leaders say, is an ideal breeding ground for radicalism. The neighborhood is poor and isolated; few Kenyans enter it. Local authorities have ignored it: Roads are unpaved, muddy and covered with trash. The smell of raw sewage wafts across the terrain. Radical preachers are filling the void, playing a key role in recruiting and fundraising for al-Shabab. They operate the largest mosques in the neighborhood, providing ideological leadership and a resource base for militants, according to a U.N. report on Somalia in April.

Kenyan police have long harassed Somalis, demanding bribes under threat of arrest or deportation, generating resentment. Since the Kampala attacks, police have rounded up hundreds of people in Eastleigh and other areas, including four Kenyan Muslims who human rights activists say were illegally extradited to Uganda for interrogation.

Related NY Times article on how al Shabab is increasingly looking like the Taliban.

Kenya accused of illegally transferring 4 terrorist suspects

Kenya secretly sent four terrorism suspects to Uganda after the World Cup bomb blasts in violation of Kenyan law, and FBI agents interrogated three of them in a manner that broke Ugandan law, human rights officials say.

The officials said that Kenya circumvented its own extradition laws to send the four suspects to Uganda, where they can be interrogated for a lengthy period without scrutiny.

“The fact that they are extralegally being moved looks like the Kenyans have devised reasons to circumvent the law,” said Al-Amin Kimathi, the chairman of the Muslim Human Rights Forum. “The end is not justice, the end is information gathering via all sorts of interrogation efforts.”

Lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, who represents the families of suspects, said no attempts were made by the Kenyan government to follow extradition procedures.

“Even more disturbing is that Uganda has not made a formal request to extradite the four nationals to Uganda,” he said.

A spokesman for Kenya’s government said Wednesday he did not have any immediate comment.

No arrest warrants exist in Kenya and nor do any court orders granting permission for the citizens to be removed from the country, Mureithi said. Kenyan authorities should have first charged the suspects in Kenya, he said. Instead, he charges that the removals amount to kidnapping.

Mureithi said the FBI and Kenyan police interrogated three of the suspects in Uganda after they were charged in court on July 30, violating their rights of a fair trial under Uganda’s constitution. Mureithi said he had visited the three last week who told him that they also have been interrogated by the FBI at least three times. Kimathi  questioned further the failure by the Ugandan courts to arraign the suspects in court within 48 hours as it happened with the Uganda suspects. This he said was discriminatory.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Wednesday the U.S. is aiding the investigation but he did not have any immediate comment on the role the FBI was playing.

The four Kenyans — Hussein Hassan Agade, Idris Magondu, Mohamed Adan Abdow, and Mohamed Hamid Suleiman — were arrested from different locations in Kenya following the July 11 attack that killed 76 people as large crowds watched the World Cup final on TV.

Al-Shabab, a Somali group with links to al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attacks and said it targeted Uganda because Ugandan troops belonging to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia have killed Somali civilians.

Suleiman’s family says he is innocent and was beaten by police during his arrest last Friday at their home. His supporters say he works as a tour agent, human rights worker and Arabic interpreter for the Kenyan courts.

Kimathi warned that such arrests will make more Muslim youths adopt radical views, which will in turn lead to more violence.

“There is radicalization of youth, especially Muslim youths, now who feel they are completely besieged by this,” he said. “They are fearful that anytime now, any day now, one of them might be grabbed in the wee hours of the morning shunted out to another country.”

National Muslim Leaders Forum Chairman Abdullahi Abdi, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Secretary General Adan Wachu his Council of Imams and Preacher of Kenya counterpart Sheikh Muhammad Dor, and Muslim Human Rights Forum Chairman Al Amin Kimathi expressed concern that following the bombings in Kampala, women, children and old people in Mombasa and Nairobi were harassed and intimidated by security forces.

Kimathi said the transfer of the four suspects was reminiscent of the arrests of 100 people of various nationalities who were fleeing violence in Somalia in 2007. Those arrested were flown back to Somalia and then to secret prisons in Ethiopia, where they were interrogated by the CIA and FBI. All those arrested in those swoops were set free within a year, but nine Kenyans remained in custody for more than a year before they were released.

Kenya torture victims get compensation payment

Kenyan judges have awarded 21 former political prisoners almost $500,000 (£330,000) between them in compensation for torture they suffered in the 1980s, the BBC said.

They were among hundreds of people who were illegally detained and tortured during the government of President Daniel Arap Moi, who retired in 2002. His government always denied torture, but more than two decades ago, while he was still in power, 21 former prisoners tried to sue the administration for violating their fundamental rights.

At the time, the court ruled that the case could not continue while the government remained in office. So it is only now – eight years after Mr Moi retired – that the case has finally concluded.

In the 55-page judgment the High  Court, held that the victims’ rights and freedoms under the Constitution were grossly violated in the hand of State security officers.

The judge said though many of them did not tender medial evidence of the  torture, their evidence was not contradicted by the State.

Among those to be compensated are Prof Edward Oyugi, Mr Silvanese Oketch and  Mr James Mwangi, who will receive amounts varying from Sh1 million to  Sh2.5 million each.

Another group which includes lawyer Rumba Kinuthia, Dr Odhiambo Olel and the  family of Mr Mbewa Ndede have since been paid Sh1.5 million each.

Attorney General Amos Wako has however said he would appeal against the ruling.

There are 24 pending cases by detention and torture victims seeking justice.

Free Kenyan detainee from Guantanamo should face trial in Kenya

A Kenyan man detained for three years without charge at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo should face trial in Kenya instead of being held indefinitely at the U.S. facility, his government-appointed attorney said.

Darin Thompson, an assistant federal public defender said his client, Mohamed Abdulmalik, should be repatriated to face trial over his alleged role in a 2002 terror attack in Kenya targeting an Israeli-owned luxury hotel and jetliner.

The position is in line with that of Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which wrote to the U.S. government this month to ask that Abdulmalik be sent back to Kenya. That position by the government represented a change in policy. Previously Kenya tried to deny that Abdulmalik was even a Kenyan citizen.

The Pentagon has said that Abdulmalik acknowledged involvement in the November 2002 attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, in which 13 people died, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. U.S. officials have also claimed that Abdulmalik, 37, is a member of al-Qaida.

Still, no charges have been filed against him, his lawyer said in an April 12 letter to Kenya’s foreign minister.

“It is clear that if Mr. Abdulmalik is believed to have committed Kenyan crimes, he should face Kenyan justice in a Kenyan court,” Thompson wrote in a letter, which was given to The Associated Press by human rights activist al-Amin Kimathi.

“Instead, he has been taken from his homeland to a United States military base on the other side of the Earth, forced to petition in Washington, D.C. for his release from indefinite detention in the black hole that is Guantanamo Bay,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson said the U.S. government has not given any indication that it will charge Abdulmalik with a crime even though he has been in U.S. custody since 2007.

Thompson has filed a case in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C. seeking orders to have Abdulmalik released. He lauded the recent efforts by the Kenyan government to have Abdulmalik repatriated.

Kenya’s director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, declined to comment Wednesday on whether authorities would press charges against Abdulmalik if he is repatriated. Tobiko said it would be illegal to comment because of a lawsuit filed by Abdulmalik’s family against the Kenyan government. The family is seeking $30 million in damages for wrongful detainment and torture.

Abdulmalik’s family maintains he was held in Kenyan custody without charge longer than Kenyan law allows and was tortured by Kenyan officials. U.S. officials later took him from Kenya to Djibouti to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the London-based human rights group Reprieve has said.

Australian terrorist suspect disappears in military intelligence detention in Uganda

Hashi Hussein Farah and “a dozen others”, were arrested by the Joint Anti-terrorism Taskforce (JATT) in Kisenyi slum in the capital Kampala, Uganda, allegedly on the 1st of April. He was paraded on television later in the evening. The terror suspects were taken away by the anti-terrorism squad for further interrogation to an unknown place of detention. Today, NTV Uganda said that 8 Al Shabaab suspects were released. It was unclear whether Farah was one of the persons, and if now all suspects had been released. Earlier NTV had reported that “7 Somali nationals suspected to be linked to al-Shabaab were arrested in Kampala”, and were “in Old Kampala police station”, “undergoing intense interrogation”.

The Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba declined to comment, saying the police did not arrest Farah. She referred The Ugandan Independent newspaper to JATT, a military intelligence squad, which carried out the arrest. However the Army Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye declined to divulge details about Hussein Farah, on account that it would jeopardise investigations. He said Farah’s arrest is part of a wider investigation. He did not say where Farah was being detained.

Farah, who has an Australian passport, was first arrested by the Kenyan police on March 13, 2010 as he was trying to cross Uganda’s Busia border into Kenya.

The Kenyan police released him hours later under unclear circumstances that suggested the police took a bribe from him for his ransom. Shortly after his release, upon checking his names and identity on the international security network, it was discovered he had been on the international list of wanted terrorists. He was wanted by the Australian police for masterminding a plot to attack the Holsworthy army base in August 2009. Australian Federal Police would neither confirm nor deny that Farah was wanted.

After his “escape” on the 13th of March, it was alleged last week that Farah was back into Uganda. But the Army spokesman refuted on the 23d of March the claims that Farah was in Uganda. It is not known where Farah was between the 13th of March and the 1st of April.

JATT’s practices of secret detention

Last year Human Rights Watch issued a report which documented the JATT’s abusive response to alleged rebel and terrorist activity by unlawfully detaining and brutally torturing suspects. Human Rights Watch found that over the past two years, the unit illegally detained more than 100 people and tortured at least 25 during interrogations.

Link with Australia

In Australia four Victorian men charged over the same alleged plot will stand trial in Melbourne.

Saney Edow Aweys, Yacqub Khayre, Abdirahmin Mohamud Ahmed, and Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.

A fifth man also facing charges over the alleged plot, Nayef El Sayed, will face a contested committal hearing in May.

Al Shabaab’s position towards Uganda
The group which is fighting the Somali Transitional Federal Government is opposed to Uganda’s deployment of peacekeepers in the Somali capital Mogadishu. According to a source of NTV, “al-Shabaab may have opened up three training camps, two in the eastern Ugandan district of Jinja and one in Kisenyi. Street children in Kampala are also being recruited and sent abroad for training”

UN experts conclude major study into use of secret detention in the fight against terrorism

Despite the fact that international law clearly prohibits secret detention, the practice is widespread and “reinvigorated” by the so-called global war on terror, several independent United Nations experts stated, outlining a series of steps aimed at curbing this human rights violation. In a 222-page study which will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March, the experts conclude that: “If resorted to in a widespread or systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity.” Read the unedited advance version here.

The study, which took almost a year to complete, involves responses from 44 States to a detailed questionnaire, as well as interviews with 30 individuals – or their family members or their legal counsel – who were victims of secret detention, and in many cases may also have been subjected to torture.

It provides an historical overview of the use of secret detention, noting that it is not a new phenomenon in the context of counter-terrorism. From the Nazi regime to the former USSR with its Gulag system of forced labour camps, States have often resorted to secret detention to silence opposition, according to the report.

The study goes on to address the use of secret detention in the context of the ‘global war on terror’ following the events of 11 September 2001, describing “the progressive and determined elaboration of a comprehensive and coordinated system of secret detention” of persons suspected of terrorism, involving not only United States authorities, but also other States in almost all regions of the world. The study says, inter alia,

143.Given the prevailing secrecy regarding the CIA’s rendition programme, exact figures regarding the numbers of prisoners transferred to the custody of other governments by the CIA without spending any time in CIA facilities are difficult to ascertain. Equally, little is known about the amount of detainees who have been held at the request of other States such as the United Kingdom and Canada.While several of these allegations cannot be backed up by other sources, the Experts wish to underscore that the consistency of many of the detailed allegations provided separately by the detainees adds weight to the inclusion of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Djibouti as proxy detention facilities where detainees have been held on behalf of the CIA. Serious concerns also exist about the role of Uzbekistan as a proxy detention site.

It also highlights that secret detention in connection with counter-terrorism policies remains a serious problem on a global scale, either through the use of secret detention facilities; through declarations of a state of emergency, which allow prolonged secret detention; or through forms of “administrative detention,” which also allow prolonged secret detention.

The study was issued by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (represented by its Vice-Chairperson, Shaheen Sardar Ali); and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (represented by its Chairperson, Jeremy Sarkin).