Iranian agents arrested in Kenya were 'looking for foreign targets'

Israel and Iran's Cold War spills over into East Africa


The cold war between Israel and Iran appears to have spilled into East Africa after two alleged Iranian agents arrested in Kenya on suspicion of plotting bomb attacks were claimed to have been targeting foreign interests, including the British High Commission.

Prior to their arrest on 19 June, the suspects had toured sites including the Israeli embassy in Nairobi and a golf course in the coastal city of Mombasa, as well as the British High Commission, according to Kenyan police sources.

Believed to be members of Iran's secretive al-Quds corps, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi subsequently led authorities to a cache of high explosives.

The two men have been charged with illegal possession of 15 kilograms of RDX, a chemical previously used in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and 2010 Moscow metro attacks. They are due back in court in the Kenyan capital Nairobi later this month.

The plot, if confirmed, would be "par for the course (in the) killing games" that the two countries have been engaged in across the wider region, said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The al-Quds corps is the part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard which has been tasked with carrying out attacks against Israel in reprisal for what Tehran claims is an assassination campaign against its nuclear scientists. The unit has "no clean, clear set of instructions", said Mr Cordesman, and its operatives often launch freelance operations without orders from Tehran.

Security sources in Nairobi linked the Iranians' presence to operations by Somali militants al-Shabaab, who are blamed for a campaign of grenade attacks following Kenya's military incursion into neighbouring Somalia last October. Al-Shabaab has threatened to hit major targets in Kenya including Nairobi "skyscrapers".

Investigators believe that the Iranian-imported chemicals could have been broken up into smaller batches and then used in a series of attacks that would not necessarily have been blamed on Iran.

Complicating Nairobi's response is the fact that the arrests come as Kenya is finalising a controversial purchase of crude oil from Iran, a move that risks violating international sanctions in response to allegations that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Nairobi has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase 4m tonnes of crude oil from Iran despite US moves to strengthen sanctions and the EU's approval of an embargo on Iranian oil.

Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Iran was "the greatest exporter of terror" after the arrests.

Israel and Iran have been accused of playing proxy war in the two Sudans after Tehran sought closer links with northern Sudan's regime, while Israel has begun arms sales to South Sudan.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power