JOHANNESBURG – Kenyan intelligence sources say 12 suspects arrested following the attack on Nairobi’s DusitD2 complex twenty-days ago which left over 20 people dead and many more wounded, were taken into custody from the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, the Daily Nation reported on Monday.
Dadaab is a semi-arid town in Kenya's Garissa county. It is the site of a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) base hosting 235,269 registered refugees and asylum seekers in four camps as of January 2018, making it the third-largest such complex in the world.
Many of the refugees are from Somalia, where Al Shabaab militants have been fighting UN and Somali forces as they try to establish a Sharia state in the Horn of Africa country.
The link between the suspects and struggling refugees signals the complex balance the Kenyan authorities face between dealing with internal security and offering humanitarian aid.
According to investigators, one of the DusitD2 complex attackers passed through Dadaab’s Dagahaley camp where he was given assistance to get in touch with his accomplices and also provided with transportation logistics to Nairobi.
Three other suspects armed with AK-47 rifles, several rounds of ammunition and in possession of two New Zealand passports were also arrested last week at the Hagadera camp in Dadaab.
The arrests came as US security sources warned that Al Shabaab would continue to pose a threat to East Africa this year, using Dadaab as a launch pad for further attacks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in March 2017 ordered the closure of Dadaab camp in the wake of the Garissa University College attack in April 2015 and the Westgate shopping mall raid on September 21, 2013, but was heavily criticised by human rights organisations.
Amnesty International said by offering no options other than a return to Somalia, Kenyatta's Jubilee government was effectively forcing refugees to leave Kenya.
The attempts to close down the camps were stopped by the High Court of Justice.
Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho has described Dadaab as a "breeding ground for terrorists” and Kenyatta has asked the UNHCR to relocate the camps which share the border with Somalia.
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa