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Africa Focus: Kenya denies existence of police death squads

by Chris Mgidu and Njoroge Kaburo

NAIROBI, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government has denied the existence of "death squads" within the country's security forces as alleged by a Qatari-based television network.

Principal Secretary with the Ministry of Interior Monica Juma warned that the government may prosecute the makers of the documentary alleging that Kenya uses death squads against radical Islamists.

"The government does not operate death squads neither is it aware of the existence of any such groups in the country. This fact was made absolutely clear in our email to Al-Jazeera which they totally ignored," Juma said in a statement received on Wednesday.

The 47-minute documentary, titled Inside Kenya's Death Squads, was shown on Doha-based Al-Jazeera television on Monday. It appears to suggest that Western interests were sponsoring Kenyan police to eliminate terrorist suspects, who include Muslim clerics.

The Al-Jazeera program presented interviews with men who said they were members of Kenyan death squads and had carried out extrajudicial killings.

The men, whose faces were obscured to hide their identity, said they did so at the direction of a group of high-ranking Kenyan officials that include President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Foreign intelligence agencies allegedly assisted in the assassination of two Muslim clerics Sheikh Aboud Rogo in August 2012 and Sheikh Abubakar Sharrif (Makaburi) in April in Mombasa.

The television network claimed that over 500 clerics had been killed by the squads. However, the government said there was no evidence of such numbers.

Juma accused the Al-Jazeera network of trying to "derail" Kenyan efforts to fight militancy.

She said given the apparent capacity of the documentary to undermine the country's security and fight against terrorism, the government has instructed the relevant authorities to begin investigations with a view to bringing charges against those involved in the documentary.

"We wish to point out that the government remains vigilant and unrelenting in the pursuit of providing security for all who live in Kenya and will not be derailed by in this noble duty by the likes of Al-Jazeera," Juma said.

Juma said Kenya has a functioning and effective constitution that upholds fundamental freedoms and security agencies operate within this framework, and noted that it's on this basis that police officers who have violated the law have been charged in court.

"The timing of the documentary is also suspicious and appears meant to derail Kenya's efforts to fight terrorism. The documentary was deliberately planned and aired at a time when the country is seeking support to strengthen its war against terror through legislative reforms," she said.

The program came amid increased attacks from Al-Shabaab in several major attacks in Kenya since the government sent troops to Somalia to fight the militants three years ago.

Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Technology Fred Matiang'i met Al-Jazeera's top managers Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, to register the complaint.

"I met the CEO and two directors to formally complain about the documentary and also made some demands. They have promised to review the program and take appropriate measures in accordance with our demands," Matiang'i said.

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