Kenyan authorities are claiming to have foiled an act of bioterrorism by an as-of-yet unnamed offshoot of ISIS. The plan, originally set to take place last Friday, involved numerous locations. Several members of the medical field were involved in devising this scheme, in which anthrax was to be released, potentially killing hundreds of Kenyans, NBC News reports.
The attack was intended to be on the same scale as the 2013 Westgate Mall siege. On Saturday, September 21, 2013, gunmen associated with the extremist group al-Shabaab attacked the Westgate Mall, one of the most upscale shopping locations in Nairobi, Kenya. Mall surveillance showed the men to be wearing civilian clothing and carrying assault rifles. Although police and response teams quickly surrounded the area, the siege lasted over 48 hours. By the time the horrifying event had come to its conclusion, 67 people were dead, including four of the gunmen.
One of the suspected masterminds behind this latest planned act of terrorism, Mohammed Abdi Ali, was arrested in accordance with Kenya’s terrorism laws. As reported by the International Business Times, Ali will be allowed to be detained for an additional 30 days to complete investigations. Ali was a medical intern, studying in the southern party of the country. In addition to his role in the plot, he stands accused of recruiting university students and other young people into extremist groups, as well as attempting to radicalize them into his belief structure.
In a press release by Kenyan Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, it was revealed that “Mohammed Abdi Ali’s terror network within Kenya spreads as far as the Coast Region, North Rift Region, and Western Region, as well as other countries that include Somalia, Libya and Syria,” Ali’s wife, Nuseiba Mohammed Haji and another young woman, Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi were also arrested though their involvement with the plan, if any, remains unknown.
A statement released by Kenyan officials said that the arrests were a “major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism in Kenya and the region.”
While only three arrests have been made, two other medical interns, Ahmed Hish and Farah Dagane, have also been named as accomplices. Hish and Dagane are said to have gone into hiding. Some people, however, do not believe that this is the case. Human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi believes that the police themselves were involved in the disappearance of the alleged terrorists, and that claims of the plot itself were fabricated to excuse the police’s involvement in Hish and Dagane’s disappearances.
The New York Daily News reported that Kimathi stated, “We asked questions very early yesterday (Monday) where these boys were and we raised fears that the same modus operandi used before on suspected extremists of assassinations, forced disappearances and extra-judicial execution is being used again.”
The name of the organization behind this planned attack has not yet been released. The statement by the Kenyan police simply stated that it was an East African group with ties to ISIS. The group is also believed to assist and encourage Kenyan youths to leave the country and join extremist groups in neighboring Somalia and Libya. The most prevalent extremist group in the area is al-Shabaab, the group responsible for the Westgate Mall killings.
According to the CDC, anthrax is the most likely substance to be used in a bioterrorism attack. Anthrax is relatively easy to produce in a lab and can be released with little to no upset as it cannot be smelled or tasted. The spores are microscopic and can last a very long time outside of a lab environment. They are able to be transmitted using powders, sprays, food, or water. Anthrax can cause fever, swelling, shortness of breath, severe pain, confusion, bloody and loose stool, and even death.
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