NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – Police said on Tuesday they had arrested a man they described as a prime suspect in a series of terrorist attacks in the country and seized grenades and assorted firearms, a day after two grenade attacks hit the capital Nairobi.
The swoop was carried out at a residential flat in the densely populated estate of Kayole where the Kenyan man was arrested following what Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere described as “credible intelligence reports.”
“This is a major breakthrough in the war against terrorism in the country,” Iteere told journalists, displaying 13 rusty hand grenades, four pistols, two submachine guns and 717 rounds of ammunitions.
“We have also seized literature for war and others on how to make and use explosives. The suspect is in our custody and he is going to assist us get his accomplices,” Iteere said adding “the suspect is a member of one of the terrorist cells who have committed several terrorist attacks in the country.”
Police did not immediately link the suspect and the arsenal seized to Monday’s grenade attacks which killed one person and wounded some 30 others.
On Monday night, a grenade attack was detonated at the OTC bus stop in the bustling downtown streets near the Salvation Army, hours after a similar incident at a pub known as Mwaura’s off Mfangano Street.
“An investigation has been launched to establish if this man is linked to the Monday attacks,” Iteere told Capital News and warned that “we are going to drive these people out of town, we will not let a small group disturb the peace of Kenyans.”
Personal documents seized from the man showed he is a Kenyan from Western Kenya, but police quickly pointed out that he had converted to radical Islam.
Police carrying out the Tuesday evening raid told Capital News the suspect had two houses and stayed in both of them discreetly.
Neigbours described the man as quiet and one who never interacted with locals.
“I just see him but rarely does he speak to people. He stays alone,” one woman afraid of being asked by the police to give a statement told Capital News. She said the man lived alone in the single-room house on third floor within Kayole One estate.
The house is less than a kilometer from Kayole police station and is adjacent to the main social hall.
Since Monday’s grenade attacks, police in Kenya announced they had stepped up security and warned Kenyans to exercise caution particularly when in the capital Nairobi.
The warnings follow fears that Al Shabaab insurgents who have warned of reprisal attacks may hit target areas within the city to protest a military offensive in their lawless country Somalia.
The military offensive in Somalia was launched after high profile kidnappings of four European women seized from Lamu Island and Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya, including that of Frenchwoman Marie Dedieu who died while in captivity in Somalia. Police have blamed the kidnappings on Al Shabaab.
The American embassy in Nairobi at the weekend warned of credible threats targeting places frequented by foreigners in Nairobi, further heightening fears of a possible terror attack.