NAIROBI, August 7 – Kenya Thursday commemorated a decade since a powerful explosion rocked the American Embassy in Nairobi, with a pledge from the government to avert any future attacks.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the government would crack down on terror cells operating in the country.
“The stark revelations of the last few days have reminded us yet again that we have terrorists in our midst still planning awful deeds. We must therefore never relax our vigilance against these extremists,” he told mourners who gathered at the August 7th memorial park, the site where the bombed US Embassy once stood.
He was referring to the weekend escape of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the architect of the 1998 bombing.
“Let me assure Kenyans that this government will do everything possible to prevent us from ever again being attacked,” Odinga pledged.
He also said Kenya’s war on terror did not result from demands from any foreign states. He said the government had reason enough to launch an aggressive campaign against the extremists.
The Premier said: “Let no one claim that that our posture on terrorism is a result of any outside pressure. We have suffered three major terrorist attacks in our short history. We will not allow a fourth one to occur.”
He also sought to assure the Muslim community in the country that they would not be victimised as the country’s Anti- Terrorism Police Unit searched for terror suspects.
“Let me also dispel the falsehood that these terrorists are acting in the name of Islam, or that our anti-terror efforts are directed at Muslims. The whole world knows that Islam is a religion of peace. It is also a religion which practices the greatest inclusiveness. It would be sheer madness to target it. Kenya will never do so,” he said.
Odinga, who signed a peace deal with President Mwai Kibaki early this year, came to the defence of his coalition partner whose government was accused of neglecting survivors of the attack.
“Let me say here on behalf of the President: I know that this issue has gone before Congress, more than twice it has been turned down by the United States. So this it is not an issue that lies in the hands of the President of Kenya and the facts need to be put correct.”
Earlier, 1998 bomb blast victims accused the government of doing little to ensure they are compensated.
Meanwhile, Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti appealed to Kenyans to be alert and report any people they suspect of having links to terrorism to authorities.
He said terrorism had become a global challenge and community policing would play a major role in identifying and fighting the extremists.
“I want to assure the people of this country that our security agencies are on alert on a 24-hour (basis) to ensure that that tragedy will not recur again. And we work also with our partners to ensure that we are able to prevent the recurrence of these problems,” Saitoti said.
There were 213 people killed in the Nairobi bombing and 5,000 others injured.
Another blast, some three minutes later, rocked the U.S Embassy in Dar es Salaam.