MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) — Kenyan police arrested 11 people on Wednesday including an Islamic preacher and a 15-year-old boy on suspicion of links to al Qaeda.
Dozens of officers launched pre-dawn raids on an Islamic school and three other locations in the coastal city of Mombasa.
“The raid is intended to arrest suspects in connection with terrorism activities and the al Qaeda network,” said one senior police commander who asked not to be named.
The suspects are being held at two Mombasa police stations.
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and for a hotel bombing four years later.
Security experts say the country is at risk from more attacks because of its proximity to neighboring lawless Somalia, and the ease with which its borders can be crossed by extremists taking advantage of their remoteness or easily bribed officials.
Kenya’s Muslims, who live mostly on the coast and make up about 10 percent of the mainly Christian country’s 35 million people, say they are unfairly targeted by the security services.
Residents caught up in Wednesday’s swoops said they were forced from their beds and made to lie in torrential rain for more than an hour while officers searched inside.
Local Islamic leaders also condemned the raids, linking them to an ongoing U.S. visit by Kenya’s internal security minister.
“We are always being used as bait especially when the government is expecting aid,” said Sheikh Mohammed Dor, secretary general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya. “They are trying to please the United States at the expense of Muslims.”
How about taking a serious look at the level of support for al-Qaeda within your community, Sheikh Dor? Or do you care?