As part of efforts to confront the ever-present threat of terrorism in the region, a team of senior Ugandan security personnel last week rushed to the coastal Kenyan town of Mombasa where they interrogated suspected al Shabaab terrorists who had been arrested with a truck loaded with explosives.
A police source, who declined to be named, said Ugandan security wanted to establish whether the suspects had any plans to attack Uganda or its interests.
“The officers were in Mombasa last week and they managed to talk to the suspects before they were taken to court. They (the suspects) told them that they had planned to blow the oil pipeline in Mombasa, which would affect both Kenya’s and Uganda’s economies,” the source said.
The discovery of explosives in the truck is said to have prompted police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura, to direct that all fuel trucks en route from Ugandan border posts be escorted to their final destination within the country.
However, since the order was issued, it is not clear if police are actually enforcing it.
An attack on the oil pipe line, which funnels fuel from the Mombasa refinery would have caused serious challenges to the economies of Uganda, Kenya and other Great Lakes countries which depend on it for supply.
Kenya’s security has since issued a broad alert on suspicion that there could be other trucks loaded with explosives hidden around the country.
Slightly more than a week ago, Kenyan police recovered the truck following what was initially a routine stop of a vehicle on suspicion that a traffic offence may have been committed. It was only later that further inspection revealed it to be loaded with six cylinder tubes containing explosives weighing more than 60kgs, six hand grenades, 270 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, six detonators, five magazines, quarry cables and a rifle.
Kenya police also arrested two suspected al shabaab terrorists, who preliminary investigations suggest were planning to use the explosives in an attack on the oil pipeline.
Deputy police spokesman Patrick Onyango yesterday confirmed Ugandan officers visited Mombasa but he was quick to add that it was in the spirit of the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation arrangement under which information about terror threats is shared.
Although he confirmed the Director of Interpol, Uganda, Mr Asan Kasingye, was part of the team, he declined to divulge details, saying he hadn’t been briefed yet.
In September last year, suspected al Shabaab terrorists attacked Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, staged a siege lasting several days which left at least 67 people dead. Four years ago, a twin-terror strike in Kampala by elements believed to be linked to the same Islamic fundamentalist group left at least 80 people dead in the Ugandan capital. Al shabaab later claimed the strike was in retaliation for Uganda’s participation in Amisom, the AU force established to pacify Somalia.