Kenya’s intelligence services are thought to have foiled an attempt to assassinate Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Nairobi this week.
The Israeli leader is on a four-day trip to Africa, which started on Monday when he visited the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, where his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed 40 years ago during the famous raid, which saved the lives of more than 100 Israeli passengers.
On Tuesday, he visited Kenya and today the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported that Mr Netanyahu’s life was saved when the Kenyan security forces re-routed his convoy after receiving intelligence about an assassination attempt.
An anonymous source told the newspaper that just before Netanyahu left the airport in Nairobi on his way to his hotel the Kenyan authorities told his security detail the convoy must change its route.
There was apparently an argument between the Israeli and Kenyan security forces, but they agreed to change the route.
‘After the convoy changed its course and arrived in a safe hotel, it was discovered that Kenyan intelligence had exposed a plan to attack vehicles in the original course. Thus, the decision to change the course saved the Israeli delegation,’ the source told the newspaper.
Mr Netanyahu is the first ruling Israeli prime minister to visit Kenya and the first to visit sub-Saharan Africa in nearly three decades.
Ironically when he met Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta one of the items on his agenda was counter-terrorism.
Kenya has long been a target of extremist attacks which have hit Israeli interests.
In a near simultaneous attack in 2002, al-Qaeda extremists blew up an explosives-laden vehicle at an Israeli-owned hotel on the Kenyan coast, killing 11 people, while others shot at an Israeli jetliner.
Mr Netanyahu said states must join forces against a ‘new form of terrorism’ that threatens all countries.
He said: ‘We see eye to eye on the nature of this problem, and I think Africa and Israel overwhelmingly see eye to eye on this.’
He recalled the 2015 attack by the al-Shabaab extremist group that killed 148 people on a college campus in Garissa in Kenya and the 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67.
The last Israeli prime minister to be assassinated was Yitzhak Rabin, who was gunned down in Tel Aviv in 1995 by a disgruntled Jewish settler.
But this week’s attempt was more likely to have come from radical Islamists, who have committed atrocities before in Kenya and may be linked to the al-Shabaab group in neighbouring Somalia.
During his time in Kenya Mr Netanyahu made a speech in which he said ‘Africa has no better friend than the state of Israel’ when it comes to security and development.
He is the first ruling Israeli prime minister to visit Kenya and the first to visit sub-Saharan Africa in nearly three decades.
Mr Netanyahu, who has now moved on to Ethiopia, said he knew ‘nothing’ of an assassination attempt and learned about it for the first time during a press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa.
‘The answer is we know nothing about it because there is nothing in it,’ he said.
Around 130,000 Ethiopian Jews – known as Falashas – live in Israel, having emigrated there since the 1980s.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said today he wanted to renew cooperation with Israel in the fight against extremism, and the two premiers signed agreements to increase ties in technology and agriculture.
Mr Desalegn also invited Ethiopian Jews living in Israel to return and invest in Ethiopia.
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