Al-Faisal deported to Gambia
Kenyan minister says Muslim cleric a security threat
JAMAICA-born Muslim Cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal was yesterday deported to Gambia.
Al-Faisal had not committed crimes in Kenya nor was he wanted in other countries, but Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang said the cleric was a security threat, citing, his history of radicalism and links with terrorism.
"What we have is his history, you can call it rumors ... but these are serious threats to our security," he said. "It is in the public's interest not to have him here."
Britain has said that al-Faisal's teachings heavily influenced one of the bombers who carried out the 2005 transport network bombings in London that killed 52 people. The Jamaican-born cleric has called for Americans, Hindus and Jews to be killed.
Al-Faisal's deportation to the West African nation of Gambia had been delayed because several countries, including the United States, had denied him a transit visa.
A Kenyan official said al-Faisal was put on a Kenya Airways flight for Lagos, Nigeria on Thursday. From Lagos he was expected to take a Virgin Nigeria flight to Banjul, Gambia. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
South Africa and Britain also had declined to grant him transit visas after his deportation orders were made on Saturday, the official said. And Tanzania declined to grant him a visa -- despite the fact he had entered Kenya from Tanzania.
The visas would have allowed al-Faisal to connect to flights to his native Jamaica, which has said it would accept him but would keep a close eye on him.
The official said al-Faisal had traveled to Kenya from Nigeria through Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique and Tanzania. He said it was likely al-Faisal traveled into Kenya by road to avoid detection since he is on an international watch list.
Kajwang said al-Faisal had chosen to go to Gambia after attempts to fly him to Jamaica failed. He said Gambian authorities agreed to take him in and assist him in finding his way home. He said the other costly alternative would have been to charter a flight directly to Jamaica.
Kajwang said the deportation was legal because al-Faisal should never have been granted entry into Kenya since his name was on a terror watch list circulated globally.
Al-Faisal arrived in the country on December 24 and was not stopped at immigration offices based in Lunga-Lunga, a Kenya border point with Tanzania. Kajwang said immigrations officials were not able to do a background check because their computers were not connected to a database, which had been shut down to install new software.
Human rights activists protested his deportation to Gambia, saying that the country has a bad history of human rights violations.
Al-Amin Kimathi, executive coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, said al-Faisal's deportation was part of a pattern of government discrimination against visiting Muslims clerics.
However, Kajwang said the Kenyan government had a credible reason to expel the cleric.
"Even in his own country he is restricted to where he can preach," Kajwang said.
Al-Faisal served four years in jail in Britain for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred by urging followers to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews.
Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian man now charged with trying to bomb a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day referred to al-Faisal as a cleric he had listened to.
The British government has said that al-Faisal also was a key influence on July 7, 2005, bomber Jermaine Lindsay.
Kimathi said that al-Faisal had come into the country on the invitation of the Muslim youths who wanted him to give lectures. Kenya has a minority Muslim population, mostly on the country's Indian Ocean coast.