Kenyan police on Tuesday said they arrested a suspected weapons smuggler with up to 100,000 bullets and an assortment of guns, a huge cache in a country with stringent gun laws.
Police recovered the weapons and ammunition in two raids carried out late Monday on the suspect's house in the capital, Nairobi, and on a business site in the western town of Narok, Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere said.
Ever since violent clashes killed more than 1,000 people following Kenya's 2007 presidential election, human rights groups have claimed that the communities that fought the 2007-2008 conflict with machetes, bows and arrows were arming themselves with military-grade weapons in anticipation of possible conflict during the country's 2012 election.
The recovery Monday of such a large cache of munitions may lend credence to the claims, which the government has dismissed, though Iteere said it was too early in the investigation to speculate what the weapons were meant for.
Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who helped negotiate an end to the election violence and who was in Kenya on Tuesday, said he had heard such reports but has seen no evidence communities were arming themselves for future conflict.
Police found two pistols and four rifles, along with shooting targets, large hunting knives and military uniforms, Iteere said.
Kenya has stringent gun laws, and obtaining a license is difficult. Applicants undergo several interviews and background checks. Despite the precautions, hundreds of illegal guns are smuggled into Kenya through porous borders, especially from Somalia, Kenya's war-torn neighbor to the north.
A preliminary investigation indicated the recovered ammunition and weapons may have been destined for another country, Iteere said.
Criminal lawyer Cliff Ombeta said the suspect in custody was his client, Munir Ahmed. He said Ahmed was innocent and besides the four rifles and some of the bullets, which are licensed, he does not know about the large munition cache.
"(The) police should tell us where they got those bullets from. That amount of bullets can only be found in a military barracks," Ombeta said.
The majority of the bullets were packed in wooden boxes labeled Kenyan Ordinance Factories Corporation, a government ammunitions factory.
A senior police official who was involved in the raid and spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly said they were investigating whether security officials were involved in supplying the munitions. Ahmed is suspected of being a weapons smuggler, he said.
Iteere said other suspects were at large. He said the informant who tipped off police was responding to a call for information on people in possession of weapons in Kenyan communities where nomads engage in the age-old practice of cattle rustling, a practice that has led to hundreds of deaths.
Iteere said he did not believe the weapons find was connected to cattle rustling.