Kenya shuts down Somali remittance firms, freezes accounts

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya has suspended the licences of 13 Somali remittance firms following the massacre at a Kenyan university last week, Somalia’s central bank governor said on Wednesday, and Kenyan media reported that dozens of bank accounts had been frozen.

KenyaThe killing of 148 students by Somalia’s al Shabaab at Garissa, some 200 km (120 miles) from the border, has piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to deal with the Islamists who have killed more than 400 people in Kenya in the last two years.

Kenya’s biggest selling Daily Nation newspaper said on Wednesday that the government has “frozen the accounts of 86 individuals and entities suspected to be financing terrorism in the country”, including Somali remittance firms.

Somalia’s central bank governor Bashir Issa Ali told Reuters that 13 Somali money transfer firms have been officially notified by Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) about the closure of accounts. He said the move would have a devastating impact Kenya’s Somali community, numbering just over one million people.

“It’s going to hurt Somalis in Kenya more than Somalis in Somalia. The amount of money sent from abroad to Kenya is huge,” Ali said, pointing out that many Somalis in Kenya rely on relatives abroad for basics including school fees.

The owner of one Somali money transfer firm told Reuters the Kenyan government has not suspended remittance firms’ bank accounts but that the CBK had instead revoked their licences. “Last night we simply received a notice, without discussion and without informing us (beforehand),” said the owner. “This is not the way to fight terrorists.”

Kenya’s Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters on Tuesday told Reuters that the east African nation is seeking additional foreign intelligence and security help after the Garissa massacre, the deadliest attack in Kenya since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassy in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

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