NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two Iranian nationals, whom officials accused of planning to attack Western targets inside Kenya, were found guilty Thursday by a Kenyan court of terror-related charges.
Officials in Kenya say the two suspects may have been planning attacks on Israeli, American, British or Saudi Arabian interests in Kenya.
Magistrate Kaire Waweru Kiare said the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt all counts against the two. Kiare said he will give sentences for the two on Monday.
Iranian nationals Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi were arrested in June 2012 and led officials to a 15-kilogram (33-pound) stash of the explosive RDX.
Prosecutors said in their charge sheet that the two had explosives “in circumstances that indicated they were armed with the intent to commit a felony, namely, acts intended to cause grievous harm.”
Iranian agents are suspected in attacks or thwarted attacks around the globe in recent years, including in Azerbaijan, Thailand and India. Most of the plots had connections to Israeli targets.
Kenyan anti-terror officials said the Iranians are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, an elite and secretive unit.
Police Sgt. Erick Opagal, an investigator with Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, successfully asked the court last year to deny the two bail because more than 85 kilograms (187 pounds) of the explosive authorities say was shipped into Kenya has not been found.
“The police have information that the applicants (suspects) have a vast network in the country meant to execute explosive attacks against government installations, public gatherings and foreign establishments,” Opagal said in an affidavit.
The two Iranians arrived in Kenya on June 12, 2012 and traveled to coastal city of Mombasa on the same day to receive the explosives, Opagal’s affidavit said. They traveled back to Nairobi after receiving the explosive from an accomplice who is still at large, it said. Opagal said the two were arrested on June 19 in Nairobi and led officers to some of the explosives hidden at a Mombasa golf course.
Several resorts on Kenya’s coast are Israeli-owned. Militants in 2002 bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people. The militants also tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time. An al-Qaida operative was linked to those attacks.
Investigators believe that if the Iranian plot had been successful, suspicion would have naturally fallen not on Iran but instead on the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Al-Shabab has threatened to bring Nairobi’s skyscrapers to the ground following Kenya’s military push into Somalia in October 2011.
Militants — most likely from Somalia — have pulled off small-scale attacks in Kenya in recent years, including kidnappings, grenade attacks and gun attacks
It is unlikely the Iranians were working in concert with al-Shabab because the two groups come from two different branches of Islam and don’t normally cooperate.