A vessel suspected to have shipped into Kenya the powder making explosive-Cyclotrimethylene Trinitramine is expected to dock at the port of Mombasa anytime this week, again. The MV Padriz has also been at the centre of possible US sanctions over Iran-owned vessels, which are said to be re-flagged to mask their ownership.
Sources confirmed to the Star that the vessel has so far made 23 calls to the port of Mombasa, on a monthly basis, and it was during one of those calls that the vessel was carrying the RDX, which has been linked to the two Iranians facing terrorism charges, Ahmad Mohammed and Sayed Mousavi The Star recently reported that the manifest of MV Padriz apparently confirmed that six security officers and another nine crew members were on board the vessel, which was carrying about 200 containers when it last docked at the port with the explosives.
However, the Iran government has dismissed the reports that the ship allegedly owned by the Pacific Island nation, Tuvalu, was used to sneak into the country dangerous explosive materials that were impounded in Mombasa. Iranian ambassador to Kenya Malek Hossein Givzad claims the information is "false and aimed at further tarnishing its international image in wide propaganda by US, Israel and some European Union (EU) states".
According to the police, the 15 kilogramme RDX was impounded at a Console base warehouse situated in Changamwe on June 20 after it was allegedly shipped into the country by MV Pardis from Iran. Speaking to the Star on the phone, Givzad said they have not contracted any of its vessels to do any shipping of its (oil) products in East Africa.
Yesterday, the Star further established that the container in which the explosives were impounded had its number changed over three times, making it difficult for security detectives to pinpoint the consignment. The vessel has been docking in Kenya to deliver containerized goods, which are categorized as mechanical and farm inputs, according to officials. The 14 days shipping schedule of the Kenya Ports Authority indicated that the vessel is expected to dock this week on 25th July, and will discharge 352 containers, and load 718.
The shipping agents in Kenya are Seven Seas Shipping Agency (K) Ltd, (SSA) whose officials from the imports department confirmed that it may instead dock around 28th July this year. "What we can confirm is that the ship is a containerized vessel, as opposed to either lose or bulk cargo or a tanker/oil," said the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The official also revealed that the vessel is now registered in Zanzibar, and owned by Arabs. "It docks at the port every once per month and was here last on June 11th this year, plus as a requirement, it has to fly the Kenyan flag," he said. Under the KPA's list of expected vessels, the container vessel, Pardis, had its vessel scheduled as 'Pard 2012-0905, call sign 5IM540, voy no SAS 0024'. SAS 0024 would mean that it will be its 24th trip to the country.
The vessel under the 14 days list was booked on 30th of June this year. Other sources in the imports business confirmed that it docked on May 23rd, this year, it being its 22nd trip to the country, and it discharged 332 containers and loaded 838 containers. "In normal cases, the same shipping company should handle the vessel, and a report on containers nominated by KPA and which yard it was found, is also given, though all the contents may not be thoroughly screened once the first few have been tested and passed," said the source.
But the ambassador, in Iran's defense, said,"It is not true that Tuvalu-the small South pacific Island nation- as claimed by US government is reflagging Iran oil ship to assist the Iranian regime in evading US and EU sanctions and generating additional revenues for its nuclear weapons program and its support for international terrorism," stated Hossein Givzard.
Reports in the UK Telegraph indicated that Tuvalu has been told by the US to stop reflagging Iranian oil tankers and warned its government of the risks of breaking US sanctions. The report further indicated that the European Union banned Iranian oil imports as well as providing insurance for vessels carrying Iranian oil on July 1, with the US having new economic sanctions that have curbed Iranian oil imports by most other major nations, in efforts to pressurize Tehran to end its nuclear program.
According to the report, reflagging ships, makes it easier for Iran to obtain insurance and financing for the cargoes, as well as find buyers for the shipments without attracting attention from the US and EU. But the ambassador said Iran would not be coward by US sanction and has a grand plan to invest in sectors such as trade, tourism, service engineering, education, agriculture, and industry.
Highly place sources indicate that MV Pardis docked at the port of Mombasa after it making its way back from Tanzania last month.
During the seizure of the RDX, acting head of civil servants Francis Kimemia revealed in Mombasa the container was seized with 15 kilograms of explosive material in Mombasa with the aid of international agencies.
He added that the government had sought the help of international agencies such the FBI and Interpol in helping deal with security threats.
He said the container was impounded after two Iranian terror suspects were arrested after checking into a five star hotel in Nairobi following a tipoff from international agencies including FBI and Interpol officers.
Anti-terrorism police are now looking for four Kenyans in Mombasa believed to have been in contact with the two Iranians. It is believed that more than 100kg was delivered by an Iranian man believed to be a security officer working on the ship but police only managed to recover 15kg.
Sources privy to the investigations indicates that 100 kilograms of RDX explosive material was offloaded at Gate number 8 at the port of Mombasa before the container was taken to Changamwe. It has also emerged that police did not recover any powder from the warehouse only to impound 15 kilograms of it at a house situated at Mama Ngina drive while the rest of the explosive cannot be accounted for.
The police only recovered a tractor and other building materials. A senior anti terrorism police officer told the Star the powder is used to make improvised bombs with a capacity to bring down tall buildings. Sources also said despite the entire alert from other agencies the Kenya government was very reluctant to intercept MV Pardiz before or upon arrival at the port of Mombasa.
The two Iranian suspects entered Kenya as tourists and were supposed to receive the explosive from the contact on MV Padriz. They were then supposed to deliver it to the Mombasa Club golf course where another contact would collect it and take it to an unknown destination. The tourist visa of the two men was due to expire on June 26 but they were arrested on June 19, five days after MV Padriz docked in Mombasa. Security sources believe that the two Iranians already charged at the high court in Nairobi could be part of Iran's elite Islamic revolutionary guards corps, a secretive unit used against foreign interests.
Kenya security agencies are now on high alert with reports that the same ship will dock at the port this week. The raid at Consol Base was led by anti terror police boss Elijah Rop. Several officials have been questioned over the consignment. The warehouse was recently in the news when a consignment of fake Somali passports was recovered there. The case is pending in court, with a businessman having been charged over the case. The Coast PPO Aggrey Adoli said a special team of security officers will also be conducting random inspection of containers at the Port of Mombasa, as police remain on high alert, over the arrival of the vessel and any others calling at the port this month.