Kenyan security forces killed “hundreds” of Islamist militants on government orders because the East African country’s judicial system is too weak to prosecute them, unidentified military officers told al-Jazeera.
The assassinations were carried out by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, the General Service Unit and two other arms of the country’s military, the Doha-based broadcaster said in an e-mailed statement before a documentary on the claims is aired later today. Orders for the killings, which number “almost 500,” came from the National Security Council, which comprises the offices of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the heads of the army and police and the interior secretary, among others, it said.
“There is no truth in that report, it’s a total exaggeration,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said in a phone interview today. “We don’t have a killer squad. The people interviewed could not be verified as members of our security forces.”
Kenyan police committed at least 176 summary executions this year, compared with 143 in the same period a year earlier, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, a Nairobi-based rights group, said in October. The country has faced increasing attacks by Islamist militants since its forces were deployed in neighboring Somalia three years ago to help fight an insurgency by al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The extra-judicial killings include that of Sheikh Abubaker Shariff, known as Makaburi, al-Jazeera said. The militant leader, who was gunned down in the port city of Mombasa in April, was on a United Nations list of individuals subject to travel bans, asset freezes and targeted arms embargoes for allegedly recruiting young Kenyans for violent activity in Somalia.
Britain provides training, equipment and intelligence to Kenya’s anti-terrorism units, while Israeli instructors are providing guidance on “how to eliminate” militants, according to al-Jazeera.
The British High Commission in Kenya said the U.K.’s support to Kenya’s Anti-Terrorist Police Unit is delivered in line with guidelines for assistance to foreign security services. It’s designed to improve Kenyan capacity in accordance with international human rights standards, the high commission said in an e-mailed response to questions.
“If there is credible evidence that our support is being misused we will take immediate action,” it said.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service said last year that the U.S. provided $9 million in anti-terrorism assistance to Kenya in 2012, part of which went to training for the ATPU, Human Rights Watch reported in August.
The Israeli Embassy in Nairobi didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Kenya Defence Forces spokesman David Obonyo declined to comment because he hasn’t seen the program yet. Manoah Esipisu, spokesman in the presidency and Kenyan police spokeswoman Zipporah Mboroki didn’t answer calls to their mobile phones seeking comment.