Prominent drug suspects get bail in Kenya

Four suspected top drug traffickers, Baktash Akasha Abdalla (2nd L), Vijaygiri Anandgiri (3rd L), Gulam Hussein (2nd R) and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla (R) sit on February 9, 2015 in Mombasa Law Courts (AFP Photo/-) (AFP/File)

Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) - A court in Mombasa on Monday released one of the sons of slain drug baron Ibrahim Akasha and an alleged foreign accomplice on bail, pending their extradition from Kenya to the United States.

The two are part of a group of four -- two Kenyans, an Indian and a Pakistani -- who were arrested in November with 98 packets of suspected heroin, with the US issuing an Interpol "red notice" for their capture and request for their extradition.

They are accused of orchestrating large scale shipments of heroin weighing several hundred kilogrammes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On Monday Baktash Akasha and Vijaygiri Anandgiri Goswami were freed on 30 million shillings ($325,000) bail, and ordered to hand over travel documents and report three times a week to detectives. A bail request by Ibrahim Akasha and Pakistani Hussein Shabakash is still pending.

The ruling is a blow to the Kenyan government, which has tried to blocked their release, as well as US authorities.

"You have been freed on bond but you will be required to report to the police on the dates and time as indicated," Mombasa chief Magistrate Maxwel Gicheru said, following angry protests by prosecutors.

The wealthy father of the Akasha brothers, Ibrahim Akasha, was gunned down in Amsterdam in 2000, after fleeing Kenya where he was sought in connection with the seizure of several tonnes of hashish.

With drug smuggling routes from Asia through the Middle East hampered by conflict and tougher border restrictions, traffickers have increasingly turned to east Africa as a transport hub, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC).

While heroin has been trafficked through east Africa for the past three decades, UNODOC said in a recent report that a series of "large seizures" of Afghan heroin suggests trade is increasing, often smuggled on traditional dhow boats from the coast of Iran and Pakistan.

East Africa has a small but growing domestic market for heroin, but the vast majority shipped to Kenya and Tanzania is believed to be then moved onwards to South Africa and west Africa, and potentially on to Europe.