NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Some refugees fleeing insecurity from neighboring countries have abused Kenyan hospitality by planning terror attacks against the country, Kenya's internal security minister said Friday, in an apparent reference to last month's terrorist attack on an upscale mall which killed more than 67 people.
Joseph Ole Lenku said Kenya's government started repatriating Somali refugees as part of remedial steps to prevent repeat attacks. Refugees from war-ravaged Somalia make up the most of the 600,000 refugees in Kenya, he said.
"We have welcomed with open arms refugees fleeing from insecurity from neighboring countries but as it turned out some of these refugees have abused our hospitality and kindness to plan and launch terror attacks from the safety of refugee camps. This cannot and shall not be allowed to continue anymore," he said
Al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 mall attack saying it was retribution for Kenya's troop involvement in Somalia. Lenku said Somalia is now experiencing relative peace because of the African Union troop intervention.
Last week, Asman Kamama, the chairman of parliament's Administration and National Security committee, said that it was confirmed that the Westgate Mall attack was planned from a refugee camp in Kenya. He spoke after a meeting with Kenyan security chiefs.
It is not the first time Kenya has blamed Somali refugees for the insecurity in the country. In December after enduring months of grenade and other explosive device attacks blamed on al-Shabab, Kenya announced new, more stringent controls aimed primarily at Somali refugees inside its borders.
A government statement said that due to that "unbearable and uncontrollable threat to national security," the government decided that all refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia must return to the large refugee camp complex known as Dadaab, a seemingly endless expanse of refugee housing on the sands of Kenya close to the Somali border. More than 400,000 refugees live in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world.
A Kenyan High Court stopped the government plan to move the Somali refugees to camps. The court said the authorities did not prove the move would help protect national security. Lenku said 15 immigration officers had been fired and will be prosecuted after a security audit implicated them in the issuance of Kenya identification documents to illegal immigrants which endangers national security.
The government plans to streamline, revamp and re-organize the immigration department to plug loopholes which are used by illegal immigrants, he said. Local and foreign investigators have done forensic autopsies on body parts recovered from rubble at a section of the Westgate Mall, which collapsed during the four-day siege. On Sunday the government said remains believed to be that of one of the mall attackers were retrieved.
Lenku said in a statement Sunday that it was the fourth body that "we know from CCTV footage to be that of a terrorist. DNA and other investigations will confirm their identities." Four AK-47 assault rifles believed to have been used by the attackers were also recovered, Lenku said. Two top government officials have claimed the section of mall collapsed after army troops fired rocket-propelled grenades while battling terrorists. The government has said structural engineers are investigating what caused the collapse.