02, Jan.07 ( Sh.M.Network) - Ten Somalia Islamist fighters have been arrested at the Liboi border crossing point as they tried to enter Kenya, police said yesterday.
The fighters, suspected by Kenyan security agencies to double as financiers of the Islamic Courts Union, were intercepted while fleeing Somalia in a four-wheel drive vehicle. They are detained in Garissa.
Eight had Eritrean passports while two had Canadian passports, police said.
The war in Somalia is being fought between Ethiopian troops who are supporting the transitional government of President Abdillahi Yusuf and militias allied to the Islamic Courts Union.
Yesterday’s arrests came as President Kibaki summoned the security sub-committee of the Cabinet and top security officers to an emergency meeting in Mombasa today to discuss, among other things, the security situation in Somalia.
On New Year’s Day, the President said that he was going to take a more active role in finding a solution to the Somalia crisis. The country has been torn by civil war and has been trying to re-establish a government after about 15 years of lawlessness.
President Kibaki is the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), the regional body that has been trying to restore peace in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.
Contigents of the Kenya Army and Kenya Navy soldiers have been busy patrolling Kenya’s border with Somalia. Troops were being airlifted while some were being driven by trucks to the border area to stop any fighters from crossing over into Kenya.
The ten fighters were yesterday flown to Garissa Town and put into custody at the divisional police headquarters for interrogation.
When the Nation visited the station, officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit and National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) were taking the suspects into separate rooms for interrogation while residents milled outside as word of the arrests spread in the town.
Officers who sought anonymity said the suspects had briefcases and gunny bags stashed with foreign currency notes, raising suspicion that they were financiers of some of the protagonists in the Somalia conflict.
North Eastern provincial commissioner Kiritu Wamai confirmed the arrests and the ongoing investigations but declined to divulge further information, saying the matter was sensitive.
Garissa district commissioner, Mr Joseph Imbwaga, on the other hand said Somalia communities living near the border were fleeing into Kenya with their livestock because of growing insecurity.
Area police boss Johnstone Limo said he and the provincial police officer, Mr Anthony Kibuchi, yesterday overflew the 1,500-kilometre stretch and assured communities that the Government had beefed up security at all border points.
He told the Nation by telephone that Kenya Army personnel and police officers had been deployed to all strategic entry points and placed on high alert to stop any spill-over of the war and prevent any retreating militias from crossing into Kenya.
Mr Limo said the number of Somali refugees was increasing by the day at Liboi and it was difficult to establish the exact figure because the police, immigration and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) officials were still screening the immigrants, most of whom are women and children.
Yesterday the North Eastern provincial committee led by Mr Kibuchy held a crisis meeting in Wajir to find a way of dealing with the influx of refugees.
There has been increased security activity in Lamu District over the past few days as more personnel are being deployed to the border town of Kiunga.
Sources said security personnel from other parts of the district were being airlifted from Mokowe to Kiunga, about 10 kilometres from the Somalia.
The deployment includes regular and administration police officers as well as the army.
Being close to the war-torn country, Lamu is seen as the likely place where refugees and even militias could seek refuge.
Kiunga is about 200 kilomtres east of Lamu.
“The deployment is aimed at sealing all the possible routes through which either the refugees or the Islamists are likely to enter Kenya,” the source said.
Senior government officials said in Mombasa yesterday that security agents were prepared for any eventuality.
Lamu district commissioner Nkoidila ole Lankas said the area that borders Somalia was calm.
“There is no anxiety and people are going on with their daily responsibilities,” he said.
He said the security personnel were on alert.
In the 1990s, when the Somalia government collapsed, thousands of refugees flocked into Kenya after crossing over to Lamu.
The district has several military bases with the Kenya Navy stationed at Kiunga.
Defeated Somali Islamists fled their defences near a southern town and headed towards the Kenyan border on Monday in what looked like the end of a nearly two-week war with the government.
Several thousand Islamist fighters, who abandoned the capital to take a stand 300 km to the south near the port of Kismayu, melted away again overnight after trading artillery fire with advancing Ethiopian and government troops.
The leaders and fighters of the Islamic Courts Council were driven from Mogadishu on Thursday after occupying it for six months.
Last week, they headed further south towards Kenya.
They have vowed to hit back with guerrilla tactics.
Some Kismayu residents said the Islamists were going to the hilly region of Buur Gaabo, just on the Somali side of the border. “If they go there, it will be very hard for the Ethiopians to get them,” one resident said.
In a situation such as the one happening in Somalia, anyone who ventures to enter Kenya will have to be vetted.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kenya cannot be a haven for people who are not wanted by their lawful government.
Shabelle Media Network Somalia