Counter-Terrorism: Prophets and Profits in Kenya

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December 27, 2005: Kenya has been the scene of some notable terrorist outrages, including the bomb attacks against the U.S. Embassy in 1998 and against tourist hotels in 2002, as well as some lesser attacks against Christian churches. Following the 2002 attacks, several arrests were made, including that of Aboud Rogo Mohammed, an Islamic teacher. Although the evidence was considerable, Rogo (as he is generally referred to) and his co-defendants were acquitted.
Kenya is notoriously corrupt, and there have been suggestions that the court was tainted. Moreover, the Kenyan government refuses to recognize that it has a problem, insisting that there is no domestic link to terrorism, and calling the attacks the work of outsiders. Meanwhile, anti-terrorism legislation has been stalled in parliament. Complicating the problem is that prominent Kenyan Moslem leaders argue that the proposed legislation is directed specifically at the Moslem community, which numbers about 10-percent of the population.

Nevertheless, it appears that the situation in Kenya is better than these trends would suggest, based on recent incidents at Malindi. A heavily Moslem town, Malindi is also a prominent tourist destination, with superb coral beaches and an offshore "marine national park." These natural assets attract large numbers of water loving tourists, many of whom wear little or no clothing when soaking up the sun. Some Moslem leaders in the town have protested that this is an assault on Islamic values and ought to be banned.

Apparently seeing an opening for an even more radical message, Rogo and some other radicals, including Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, linked to the 1998 embassy bombing in Tanzania, recently attempted to preach at several mosques in Malindi. Twice, the congregants literally threw them out, in one incident roughing Rogo up rather badly ("beaten" was used in a local press report). Tourism in the region is only barely returning to pre-bombing levels, and clearly local citizens are not going to tolerate efforts to curb it.

 


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