Wednesday, July 22, 2009




FOR the second time in six years, Kenyan police officers have lost the files of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Haroun Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, raising doubts over the integrity of the security services.

Fazul is wanted for the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi and the 2002 bombing of Paradise Hotel at Kikambala.

It also appears that Fazul was the target of the botched assassination attempt in January 2007 that led to the cancellation of a covert CIA assassination project, exposed last week in the USA.

Foreign intelligence officials are said to be deeply concerned that such a high value target as Fazul can apparently be protected from within the Kenyan security system.

Officers from the Kenya Anti Terrorism Police Unit have now misplaced crucial evidence collected from the Malindi residence where Al-Qaeda mastermind Fazul was hiding last year, according to multiple sources.

In 2003, police lost a comprehensive file of forensic evidence that had been prepared by Israeli police to support the prosecution of the suspects in the Paradise hotel bombing and attempted shooting down of an Israeli tourist plane in Mombasa.

In both cases, there have been allegations that the files were sold cheaply. The price was allegedly Sh2.5 million in 2003 and Sh15 million this year. This has been denied by the police.

The American Central Intelligence Agency has offered a bounty of $5 million (Sh400 million) for information leading to the arrest of Fazul.

In early August 2008, police swooped on a house in Malindi where Fazul had been living only to find he has just left. Food was still on the table and the TV was switched on.

At the time, there was a strong suspicion that someone in the security services had tipped him off that the Anti Terrorism Police Unit was about to arrest him.

Now a dossier containing evidence accumulated after the August 2008 raid has gone missing. The file included DNA results from Fazul’s hair and fingerprints found at the scene by a combination of local and international police officers.

An autobiography which Fazul was writing on his laptop has also vanished. The autobiography detailed how he lived in Runda with his wife and children as a cover up while preparing for the attack on the American embassy in 1998 which killed 254 people, mostly Kenyans.

The missing dossier also contained email communications, a coded new email account, a certificate of a phone data print out, and Fazul’s flash disk.

Two passports were found in the Malindi raid but the security services do not know for certain that the photos were of Fazul. “ The data has proof of Fazul’s role in Kikambala bombing in Kenya,” stated the Star source.

It is believed that five police officers were behind the payout to release the evidence in a scheme that endangers the lives of Kenyans and visitors.

Local and international security agencies believe Fazul is al Qaeda’s most highly trained and most senior operative in the Horn of Africa. He trained with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and is said to be an “expert document forger and bomb builder” as well as a computer expert.

Police officers close to investigations say that the phone data was crucial to unravelling Fazul’s complex web of associates. “The phone had been used to coordinate the attack with the suicide bomber, Harun Bamusa, in Mombasa”, stated a source well versed with the case.

Over the weekend Police spokesman Erick Kiraithe denied that there was any loss of evidence. He declined to comment further saying that issues relating to terrorism could not be discussed in the media. “These issues cannot be discussed in the media. They are very sensitive and must be handled with confidentiality,” stated Kiraithe.

Fazul fled the country after the embassy bombing but slipped back into Kenya in 2001 through the remote island of Siyu off the Lamu archipelago, from where he plotted the attack on the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala in 2002.

Some sources say that Fazul may have had plastic surgery and now be hiding in the Comoro Islands where he was born in 1974. He has both Comoran and Kenyan citizenship.

Yesterday, multiple sources said the DNA results on hair samples of the chief suspect were taken to the government chemist for analysis and the findings presented to the ATPU.

The ATPU were presented with ballistic analysis of grenades and firearms that had been confiscated from terror suspects arrested in Mombasa last year.

Yesterday detectives who spoke on condition of anonymity said senior officers at police headquarters and in ATPU had removed the evidence. They claimed that five police officers have been paid Sh15 million.

After Fazul escaped, an embarrassed police force dashed to court to charge Mahfudh Hemed Abubakar, Ms Luftiya Abubakar Bashrahil and their son, Ibrahim Mahfudh Ashur, with helping Fazul escape arrest. The case collapsed for lack of evidence.

Fazul is still wanted for being the mastermind behind the attack on the Paradise hotel in Kikambala in September 2002 which killed 15 Israeli tourists and the simultaneous firing of two missiles at an Israeli tourist plane as it took off.

Israel immediately sent their own high level police investigation team which then provided Kenyan police with a complete forensic file including fingerprints, voice recordings and chemical analysis.

Israel believed that this file would be sufficient evidence for prosecution but by the time the trial began, the forensic file had gone missing. The police tried to reconstruct the file but it could only be partial.

Said Saggar Ahmed, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, Salmin Mohammed Khamis, Kubwa Mohamed and his son, Mohamed Kubwa, were charged with murder.

Subsequently the police prosecutor’s only evidence in 2003 was the record of an alleged intercepted phone call from Fazul to one of the defendants. The case against two defendants was dropped completely and the case against the other three amended. That case too collapsed in 2005 for want of evidence.

Israel was furious at the disappearance at the loss of the forensic file after a police officer was allegedly paid Sh2.5m to lose it or destroy it.

Soon after the initial trial collapsed in May 2003, Israeli ambassador Yaacov Amitai hinted at the fiasco when he complained at the Israel national day celebrations that this was an unacceptable way to handle national security. He was criticised by some politicians and the commentators for interfering in Kenyan sovereignty.

Last week in the United States, former vice-president Dick Cheney was sharply criticised for authorizing without Congressional approval a covert CIA scheme to assassinate al Qaeda operatives around the world. The programme was terminated after an “embarrassing” failed attempt to assassinate an al Qaeda operative in Kenya.

It seems probable that the botched assassination was an attempted hit on Fazul. In January 2007 a US Air Force AC-130gunship targeted “the principal al-Qaeda leadership in the region”, according to the Pentagon Somali government officials initially confirmed that Fazul had been killed in the airstrike in Ras Komboni but this was later denied by the US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger. At least 70 Somali nomads were killed in the attack.

The CIA set up the covert programme so that they did not have to tell governments of their assassination plans, because they were compromised or they could not be trusted with the information.