MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police said on Monday they had shot dead a suspected supporter of the Somali militant group al Shabaab during a gunfight and said he had been plotting attacks in the country.
Kenya has suffered a series of grenade and gun attacks since it sent troops into neighboring Somalia in October 2011 in pursuit of insurgents it blames for kidnapping security personnel and Western tourists from its territory.
The attacks, which have targeted the capital Nairobi, Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline and its frontier with Somalia, have rattled investors and tourists in east Africa’s biggest economy.
Police shot the suspect, Kassim Omollo, after he defied orders to surrender during a dawn raid on a house in the port city of Mombasa and instead returned fire, senior police officer Thomas Sangut said.
Police confiscated a sniper lens, two grenades, an AK 47 rifle, a pistol, more than 200 rounds of ammunition and an assortment of improvised explosive devices at the property, Sangut said.
The suspect was an al Shabaab trainer and bomb making expert whom police had been trailing for more than a year, police said.
“He has been changing residence all the time. Today we would trace him in Kenya, tomorrow we would hear he is in Somalia. He is the main man who has been behind the radicalizing and training of Kenyan youth in Somalia,” Sangut said.
“We had information that he had come back here to plan terrorist attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi,” Sangut said.
Al Shabaab, which is linked to al Qaeda and wants to impose a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia, could not be reached to comment on whether Omollo was in their ranks.
Shabaab has been substantially weakened in the last two years, losing Mogadishu and swathes of central and southern Somalia to Kenyan troops fighting under an African force.
But the rebels have managed to mount low-level raids across the border with Kenya.
Writing by James Macharia, editing by Gareth Jones