• Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Picture: THE TIMES/MOELETSI MABE

  • A survivor of last year's al-Shabaab attack on a university in Garissa. Picture: AFP PHOTO/TONY KARUMBA

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NAIROBI — Kenya, which has suffered attacks by Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants, will build a special prison to house "violent and extremist" offenders to keep them from influencing other prisoners, President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Mr Kenyatta did not say which groups he was referring to, but Kenya has been hit by gun and grenade attacks by al-Shabaab, whose fighters were behind a massacre at the Garissa University, about 200km from the Somali border, in April.

"We will establish a new prison to hold violent, extremist offenders — the truth of the matter is that we cannot allow them to spread their poison to vulnerable Kenyans," he said in a speech.

His speech, read at a graduation ceremony for guards on Tuesday, gave no timelines for the prison’s establishment. Kenya already has several maximum security jails, such as Kamiti Maximum in Nairobi.

Last June, Mr Kenyatta promised a new campaign to stop people joining violent radical groups and to fight the influence of al-Shabaab, saying conventional policing methods would not be enough to tackle the threat from radicalised men and women.

Some of the gunmen involved in the biggest attacks on Kenyan soil in recent years, including the attack on Garissa University, were Kenyan citizens who had joined al-Shabaab.

Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has staged a string of attacks in Somalia and surrounding countries aimed at imposing its harsh brand of Islam and overthrowing the Somali government, which is backed by Western donors and African peacekeepers.

Reuters