Iran-Trained Terrorists Targeting Westerners, Schoolchildren in Kenya

Kenyan police arrested two Iranian-trained terrorists in connection with multiple plots including planned attacks on Western hotels and schoolchildren.  Abubakar Saddik, 69, and Yassin Juma, 25, travelled to Iran several times in order to receive training from Iran’s Quds Force, police inspector general Joseph Boinnett told journalists.  In another statement, Inspector General Boinnett confirmed that the two had confessed to receiving money from Iranian actives in return for “assisting Iranian state intelligence.”

Quds Force is Iran’s elite unconventional warfare arm.  A branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, it focuses on developing spy networks, and training guerrillas, terrorists, and Shi’a militias, with the goal of using these networks and fighters for projecting Iran’s power and influence.  Though Quds Force has been most active in the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Iraq and from Yemen to Syria, it does occasionally operate farther afield.  Terror attacks linked to Quds Force have occurred as far away as South America.

The two arrested were to be the core of a new such spy network, but were also planning terrorist attacks.  They were to attack Western targets in Kenya, including hotels in Nairobi frequently used by Western diplomats and businesspersons.  Their Quds Force contact gave his name as “Parsa,” but eventually became known to them by what is supposed to be his real name, Mojtaba Ghanbarian.  According to Kenyan security services, “Parsa” has operated in numerous countries in the region, but has specialized training facilities in the Shi’a holy city of Karbala, Iraq:

Following investigations by Kenyan security agents, which involved reaching out to other services in Africa, it has been determined that Parsa has visited several countries in the continent in the past.

He met Juma in Karbala, Iraq, in October when the Kenyan student was introduced to special training that was scheduled when the two first met in Iran in April.

Parsa paid Juma thousands of dollars to fund his and Louw’s terror activities in Kenya.

While in Iraq, Parsa introduced Juma to Iranian experts who trained him on tactical fieldwork, methods for withstanding interrogation and how to disguise his true identity.

In Karbala, Juma met an Iranian espionage expert nicknamed The Professor.

He taught Juma techniques of how to move from place to place while avoiding detection.

The elder of the arrested Kenyans, Saddik, is described as a senior figure in Kenya’s Shi’ite community.  He relied upon promises of scholarships to recruit young people into his spy network.

Kenyan police also warned about the concurrent theft of diplomatic license plates, which they feared would be used to access secure areas.  Only the front plates were stolen, as the rear plates were more difficult to remove from the vehicles.  They issued guidance that any vehicles with diplomatic plates should be carefully inspected to ensure that they were legitimate.  A recent terror attack in Mali used diplomatic plates as a guise for gaining access to the target, police pointed out.

However, Quds Force trained operatives have a different use that would more obviously explain the theft of only the front license plate:  car bombs, also known as Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs).  Such bombs are a hallmark of Iranian-trained terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which used them to great effect against American and UN targets during the war in Lebanon in the 1980s.  Likewise, a branch of Hezbollah operating in Saudi Arabia used these kind of bombs to take down the Khobar Towers, which contained numerous American servicemembers.  VBIEDs were also a favorite weapon of Iranian-trained militias during the Iraq war, during which Iran-trained militants are thought to have killed as many as a thousand American servicemen.

Iran’s government denied any connection to the arrested men via a statement put out by its Foreign Ministry on state media.  Its embassy in Kenya issued a statement as well, denying any connection to the men or to the alleged plots and adding that “Iran always highly regards its relations with African countries, especially Kenya.”