Mombasa, Kenya, Sep 14 – Sign language problems Wednesday delayed hearings against three women refugees suspected of sheltering three female assailants shot dead while staging an unprecedented attack against the main police station in the Kenyan city of Mombasa.
Sunday’s knife and firebomb assault was the first of its kind by female assailants in Kenya and has caused concern in the country. The three Somali refugees were arrested hours later on suspicion of involvement in what police said was “an apparent terror attack.”
The so-called Islamic State group said its “supporters” carried it out, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, quoting the group’s Amaq news agency.
“The executors of the attack on the Kenyan police in the port city of Mombasa are supporters of the Islamic State and they carried out the operation in response to calls to target the Crusader states,” the agency said.
The three refugees were brought into court to be charged Wednesday but police said one of them, Shukri Haji, who is said to be deaf, claimed she could not understand what the sign language interpreter was saying.
Resident magistrate Emmanuel Mutunga ordered the three be detained five more days.
Police have said two of the women involved in the knife and firebomb assault were Kenyans and that one was wearing a suicide vest that did not detonate.
After entering the police station saying they wanted to report a stolen phone, they shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), hurled a petrol bomb and stabbed two officers.
Kenya’s Muslim minority is largely concentrated along the Indian Ocean coast and the country in the past has repeatedly come under attack by the Somalia-based Shabaab, East Africa’s long-time Al-Qaeda branch.
Somali-led insurgents have staged repeated attacks in Kenya, including the killing of at least 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 and the massacre of 148 people at a university in Garissa in April 2015.
But recent arrests show the Islamic State’s growing presence in East Africa, where they are recruiting young Kenyans for jihad abroad and raising fears some of them will return to threaten the country.
Kenyan intelligence agencies estimate that around 100 men and women may have gone to join the IS in Libya and Syria, triggering concern that some may come back to stage attacks on Kenyan and foreign targets.