Kenyan court gives life sentences to 2 Iranians for terror plots

Two Iranian nationals suspected of membership in the IRGC Quds Force were sentenced to life in prison by a Kenyan court today. The two, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, were arrested in June 2012 and are suspected of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in Nairobi, among other places.

Iran’s foreign ministry denounced the ruling, saying that the two Iranians had entered Kenya “on a valid visa for tourism purposes last year and were arrested as part of a pre-planned plot with baseless accusations.” Mohammed had previously alleged that Israeli agents had interrogated him while in detention in Kenya.

When the two Iranians were arrested last year, they led authorities to 33 pounds of RDX, a powerful explosive that they had received near a golf club in Mombasa shortly after arriving in Kenya. Over 185 pounds of additional explosives believed to be linked to the two men has not yet been recovered, according to the Associated Press. The explosives reportedly arrived in Kenya on the MV Padriz.

At the sentencing on Monday, Magistrate Kiarie Waweru Kiarie said, “I shudder to imagine the amount of life and property that would have been forever destroyed,” if the Iranians had been successful in using the RDX. Last July, an official from Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit told a Kenyan court that the two Iranians, who were arrested exactly a week after arriving in the African country, “have a vast network in the country meant to execute explosive attacks against government installations, public gatherings and foreign establishments.”

On March 6, the Counterterrorism Bureau at Israel’s National Security Council issued its semiannual travel warning. According to the report, there is an “ongoing potential threat” to Israelis in Kenya. The report further warned that there was a “very high and concrete threat” for coastal cities in Kenya, specifically Mombasa.

Mohammed and Mousavi will reportedly appeal the sentences with the help of the Iranian government, according to the BBC. At least one accomplice is still at large.

Today’s sentencing comes just a few weeks after a Cypriot court sentenced Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, a Swedish-Lebanese citizen, to four years in prison for helping Hezbollah plot attacks against Israelis. On Feb. 20, Yaacoub admitted in court to being a member of Hezbollah. On the same day, Nigeria’s State Security Service announced the arrest of three members of an Iranian-backed terror cell that was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on US and Israeli interests as well as former Nigerian officials.

The targeting of Israeli and Jewish targets by Iran and Hezbollah appears to be on the rise over the past two years. Between May 2011 and July 2012, over 20 attacks tied to Iran and Hezbollah against Israelis and Jews abroad were thwarted. These thwarted attacks, not all of which were publicly reported, took place in Cyprus, Turkey, Kenya, India, Thailand, and Azerbaijan, and elsewhere. The only successful attack thus far was in July 2012 in Burgas, Bulgaria, when Hezbollah operatives exploded a bomb on a bus carrying Israeli tourists. On Feb. 5, Bulgaria declared that Hezbollah was responsible for the terror attack in Burgas. The two primary suspects are believed to be residing in Lebanon.

The Counterterrorism Bureau at Israel’s National Security Council recently warned that Iran and Hezbollah are still looking to exact revenge for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyah and are likely to do so by targeting Israelis abroad via suicide attacks or kidnappings.

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