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Exclusive: Kenyan counterterrorism police admit to extrajudicial killings

Kenyan officers suggest program in which terrorism suspects were killed without trial on basis of Western intelligence

Kenyan police have assassinated nearly 500 terrorism suspects as part of an extrajudicial killing program supported by intelligence provided by Israel and the United Kingdom, an Al Jazeera investigation has revealed.

Officers from four units of Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) said that police assassinated terrorist suspects on government orders.

The police killings, according to an ATPU officer, were ordered by Kenya’s National Security Council and run into the hundreds every year. “Day in, day out, you hear of eliminating suspects," the officer said.

“Since I was employed, I’ve killed over 50. Definitely, I do become proud because I’ve eliminated some problems,” said another officer.

The ATPU officers contend that Kenya’s weak judicial system forced them to resort to assassinations, as police have failed to produce strong enough evidence to prosecute terrorism suspects.

“If the law cannot work, there’s another option … eliminate him,” an officer explained.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Security Council members — including the deputy president, defense secretary and policy chief — denied the allegations.

In April, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, an armed fighter known as Makaburi, was gunned down outside a Mombasa court after being charged under Kenya’s terrorism laws. Human rights groups allege police killed him.

ATPU officers confirmed the allegations. “Makaburi was killed by the police,” said one officer. “That execution was planned in Nairobi by very top, high-ranking police officers and government officials.”

Confidential police reports obtained by Al Jazeera allegedly show Makaburi had extensive links to Somali armed group Al-Shabab and planned and financed bombings in Kenya.

According to the ATPU officers, the intelligence that drives Nairobi’s “elimination program,” is supplied by Western intelligence agencies.

“Once they give us the information, they know what they have told us. It is ABCD — ‘Mr. Jack’ is involved in such and such a kind of activity. Tomorrow he’s no longer there. We have worked. Definitely the report that you gave us has been worked on,” the officer said.

A Kenyan National Police spokesman refused to comment on the allegations.

According to the officers, Israel and the U.K. provide training, equipment and intelligence to Kenyan officers on how to “eliminate” suspects targeted by Kenyan security forces.

Israel and the U.K. denied involvement. The U.K. Foreign Office added that it had “raised concerns” with Kenya over the “serious allegations.”

Mark Ellis, head of the International Bar Association, a leading organization of legal practitioners, said the alleged complicity of these countries could violate international law.

“It’s clear, based on these interviews, that there's at least prima facie evidence to suggest that these third-party countries are involved, and therefore they all have responsibility to investigate,” Ellis said. “We should stop providing any type of assistance or training to police units in Kenya until there is a clear change … in how the Kenyan authorities deal with suspects.”

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