NAIROBI, Kenya — At least 3,000 people were arrested in Kenya during four days of security operations across the country following a wave of terror attacks, officials said Tuesday.
Kenya police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said most of those arrested and held at a sports stadium in the capital have been questioned by security agencies and released, but 447 suspects remain in custody under anti-terrorism laws that allow police to hold suspects longer than 24 hours. He said 69 suspects had been charged in court with various offenses.
Human rights activists have criticized the security operation, which police said was prompted by recent explosions and gun attacks that have killed at least 12 and have been blamed on Somali militant group, al-Shabab. The extremist group has vowed to carry out terror attacks in Kenya in retaliation for Kenya sending its military to Somalia to help fight insurgents.
Rights groups say only Somalis are being targeted, and they are concerned about their treatment. Police denied both allegations.
Activist al-Amin Kimathi said journalists and human rights groups are not being allowed to the stadium where the suspects are being held.
“There is no transparency, it’s very opaque, there are no health facilities, and there is a lack of amenities. There is no documentation,” he said.
Kimathi warned that the government operation may lead to disaffection between a sector of Kenyans and the state.
“There are fears of sectarian tensions maybe sired by this kind of approach … Whereas government keeps saying that it’s not about religion, the perception is very strong that the government is targeting ethnic Somalis and religion,” he said.
Police spokesman Mwinyi denied allegations that certain communities and faiths are being targeted by police, and said the suspects are being kept in humane conditions.
Mwinyi said the aim of the operation is to detect illegal aliens, arrest and prosecute persons suspected of engaging in terrorist activities, identify places harboring criminals, and to contain and prevent general acts of crime and lawlessness.