Security agencies in two East African countries are on alert for possible terror attacks from Somali extremists who have vowed to avenge the presence of African Union troops in Somalia, officials said Wednesday.
Anti-terror police foiled a planned terrorist attack in the coastal city of Mombasa after they intercepted a car packed with explosives a week ago, according to Kenyan authorities.
The FBI is aiding the investigation and two men who were allegedly caught in the car were charged in court Wednesday for preparing to commit murder, being members of an outlawed organization and illegal possession of explosives and weapons. The two men charged in court were identified as Abdiaziz Abdulahi Abdi and Isaak Noor Ibrahim believed to be Somali nationals.
Two more suspects, Mohammed Daayo, a Somalia national and Shadrack Nicholas, a Kenyan, are in police custody in connection with the planned attack, according to Mombasa County Criminal Investigations boss Henry Ondieki.
Security in the country has been increased following the arrests, said Kenya's Internal Security Minister Joseph Ole Lenku.
Police on Tuesday displayed the explosives found in the vehicle, including six cylinders weighing 60 kilograms (132 pounds), six detonators, six grenades, an AK47 rifle and a cache of ammunition. A mobile phone improvised for detonating bombs was also found, said Lenku.
Two senior FBI agents attached to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi are in Mombasa assisting Kenyan agencies with the technology for analyzing the explosives, the Mombasa County commissioner Nelson Marwa said.
The FBI used satellites to locate and track the blue Toyota SUV in which the explosives had been mounted leading to the arrests, Marwa said.
Police had arrested the first two suspects on March 11 but it is only on March 17 that they discovered the explosives which were concealed under the seats of the suspects' sports utility vehicle, Marwa said.
The Islamic extremist rebels in Somalia, al-Shabab, have vowed to inflict violent attacks on Kenya and Uganda because the two countries have contributed troops to the African Union force supporting the government in Somalia.
In Uganda, police spokesman Ibn Ssenkumbi says Somali militants may be planning to launch attacks on fuel trucks.
Ssenkumbi, a spokesman for police in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, said the authorities had taken precautionary measures such as providing police escort to fuel trucks parked or moving along highways.
"We got intelligence that a group actually was planning to attack, but we can't tell if they are already in the country or not," he said.
Certain gas stations in Kampala have been ordered to keep parking lots empty of all vehicles, while most fuel depots across the country are now under heavy guard, he said.
Because Uganda is landlocked, fuel trucks arriving from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa are a common sight along major highways. Trucks going to neighboring Rwanda also pass through Uganda.
Ugandan officials have issued many terror alerts since the attack last September at a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. That attack was claimed by al-Shabab, and Ugandan officials believe those Somali Islamic extremists are plotting a similarly deadly attack on Ugandan territory in retaliation over Uganda's military involvement in Somalia.
Al-Shabab bombed a bar screening of the 2010 World Cup final in Uganda's capital in July 2010, an attack which killed more than 70 people.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda