Kenyan man accused in terror attacks free on bail
NAIROBI — A Kenyan man who once told authorities he was part of an Al Qaeda plot to blow up the US Embassy in Nairobi is now facing charges in connection with last month’s terror attacks in Uganda but is free on bail, authorities said yesterday.
Salmin Mohammed Khamis, 34, also was acquitted in 2005 in the bombing of a beachfront hotel, two years after he divulged the embassy plot. Khamis was never charged in connection with the embassy case. His statement to authorities was viewed by the Associated Press.
Under Kenyan law, a confession can be acted on only if it is made in front of a magistrate or judge. Confessions made during police interrogations are not admissible as evidence in court.
Khamis was one of seven people acquitted in the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa, Kenya, in which 15 people died. He also was acquitted of charges in connection with a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane leaving Mombasa that same day.
Kenya’s antiterrorism police chief, Nicholas Kamwende, confirmed yesterday that the same man is now facing charges in connection with the Uganda bombings that killed 76 people. Khamis, though, is out on bail after a Mombasa court released him Monday.
He is accused of harboring three suspects in connection with the Uganda attacks, when a Somali Al Qaeda-linked group, al-Shabab, attacked fans watching the World Cup final match on television at two locations. One of the Ugandan suspects came to Kenya to stay with Khamis after the July 11 bombings, while the other two stayed in hotels in Mombasa, Kamwende said.
The spokesman for Uganda’s judiciary said the three men voluntarily confessed before two magistrates Tuesday evening that they were involved in the bombings. Eliasa Kisawuzi did not give details of the men’s confessions.
Kamwende said antiterrorism police have been watching Khamis since his acquittal in 2005 and know that he has been to Somalia several times since. The last time Khamis tried to go to Somalia was in June, but police stopped him at the border town of Liboi, Kamwende said.
In 2003, Khamis told Kenyan investigators that Al Qaeda planned to simultaneously drive a truck bomb and fly a small plane laden with explosives into the US Embassy in Nairobi. The men, however, did not set an attack date, and it was not clear at the time whether Khamis’s arrest in July 2003 foiled the plan.
But the report provided a possible reason for the actions American and Kenyan authorities took in June and July 2003. For four days in June 2003, the US Embassy was closed down and Kenyan officials banned flights from June 20 to July 8, 2003, to and from Somalia.