KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Security forces in Kenya have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people over the past two years during counterterrorism operations against the al-Shabab extremist group based in neighboring Somalia, Human Rights Watch reported Wednesday.
In a new report, the rights group urged Kenyan authorities to investigate the disappearances in the capital, Nairobi, and the northeast and the deaths of detainees.
The report cites cases where suspects arrested over alleged ties with the Islamic extremist group have not been charged in court and their families cannot locate them.
"People in northeastern Kenya deserve protection from al-Shabab attacks, not further abuse from the authorities," said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director.
Charles Owino, a Kenyan police spokesman, said an oversight unit within the police would carry out an independent investigation and that any police officer found culpable would face trial.
Human Rights Watch said it spent over eight months investigating the abuses in Nairobi and the northeastern counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
Among those the group says were arbitrarily arrested during the security sweeps were young ethnic Somali Kenyans, imams and Islamic school teachers.
Kenya has been targeted repeatedly by al-Shabab, which opposes Kenya's military involvement in Somalia against the extremist group.
Human rights activists and Muslim leaders have warned that factors encouraging youths to enroll in extremist groups include a feeling of marginalization and alleged government discrimination against Muslims. Kenyan government security agencies have been accused of torture and extra-judicial killings of suspected extremists.
Separately, Kenyan police have been in the spotlight over the killings of a human rights lawyer and two others whose bodies were found dumped in a river last month.