Kenya faces new paths of terror in fight against radicalisation


Pictures of suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists whom the US government through its officials in Nairobi and Somalia announced on November 14, 2022 a reward for anyone who would give information towards their arrest. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Proximity to Somalia and the incursion of the Kenya Defence Forces during the Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Country) in 2011 has been cited as one of the reasons why Kenya faces attacks from Al Shabaab.

Over time, recruits have exploited the 681 kilometres of land Kenya shares with Somalia to crossover to the country that has known war for the better part of the last three decades.

The coastal regions and some parts of Nairobi and the northern frontier district have been and continue to be recruitment hotspots.

A new haven however is emerging as more East Africans seek to export their jihadism not just to Al Shabaab but also to the Islamic State (Isis) or Daesh, which has a presence or terror groups associated with it in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.

This new path puts Tanzania on the map as a safe haven for jihadists if the recent arrests of recruits are anything to go by.

Zuena Machabe, 34, was recently arrested and arraigned in court, with authorities saying that she has been a key cog in the recruitment and facilitation of recruits to Somalia.

Machabe was arrested alongside her three children in Tuduma, a town near Tanzania – Zambia border as she attempted to cross illegally to Zambia.

Authorities say that she was radicalised while working in Kenya as a banker and in 2021 she recruited her husband Ibrahim Ramadhan and facilitated his movement to Somalia.

After he left the country, authorities quizzed her about his whereabouts and they say in a bid to draw sympathy and throw them off she recorded a video in which she alleges that Ramadhan was taken by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU).

By this time police say she was also planning to cross over to Somalia with her three children and that is when she quit her banking job.

She slipped from their radar and instead crossed over to Tanzania where she continued with her terror work.

Authorities liken her to Samantha Lewthwaite alias “White Widow” and that she was attractive to terrorists due to her financial knowledge.

They say while in Tanzania she joined other suspected terrorists including Ali Omar Bwanaadi, who fled Kenya in 2019 after it emerged police were looking for him in connection with the murder of a chief in Lamu. Omar was joined not long after by his two brothers Ayub Bwanaadi and Mohammed Bwanaadi as well as a friend identified as Kassim Ahmed.

Ayub, Mohammed and Kassim were all arrested by police on April 7 in Isiolo inside a Moyale-bound bus.

This arrest police believe triggered Machabe to seek a way out of Tanzania.

The three men are linked to the murders of a police officer in Lamu as well as a chief and a sub-chief.

They were arraigned in court where they are facing three murder charges and being members of a terror organisation.

According to investigators; the three men are accused of murdering Hesborn Okwemwa, a policeman, on October 2, 2019, as well as the double murder of Mbwajumwali location senior chief Mohamed Haji Famau and Myabogi sub-location assistant chief Malik Athman Shee on December 12, 2019.

When they were arrested, they told investigators that they were facilitated to move from Tanzania by Isis and were on their way to Ethiopia where they were to get identity documents for easy crossing to join other fighters in Puntland, Somalia.

They travelled to the Tanzania – Kenya border using bodaboda’s before boarding a bus at Lungalunga heading to Mombasa. Once there, they were received by Abdullahi Lali Shosi in Mwembe Tayari, who then transferred them to a waiting vehicle which transported them to Nairobi.

Once in the capital, they were received by a man, whom police are still looking for, and taken to Eastleigh estate where they were housed for days.

Here, they received training on counterintelligence as well as personal security and new sim cards to avoid detection by authorities.

He booked their travels to Ethiopia where they were to meet another Isis handler who would help them get new identity documents before moving to Puntland, and this is when they were intercepted and arrested.

We must all fight terrorism, Ruto says

Police say that Shosi is one of the Isis point men in the country and that he plays a key role in coordinating their activities. After Kassim and the Bwanaadi brothers were arrested in Isiolo, Shosi tried to bribe the arresting officers with Sh50,000 which he had promised to share via mobile money transfer to secure their release.

He has since been charged with being a member of a terrorist group, collecting information and possessing terrorism articles.

Court heard that Kassim and the two brothers were arrested on January 9, 2014, while still trying to exit Kenya for Somalia.

Kassim would later be arrested in 2016 alongside Ali Omar Bwanaadi as they tried to cross the Kenya-Uganda border on the way to Libya to join Isis.

Another Kenyan, Shida Jacob Msanzu, was arrested by Tanzanian authorities on April 3 and handed over to ATPU on April 10. According to investigators, Msanzu was trying to cross over to Uganda and had the intent of travelling to DRC where he waws to join Isis.

They say that Uganda was an easy crossover spot since Tanzania and DRC borderline runs at Lake Tanganyika.

He crossed over to Tanzania on December 29, 2022, after he had been freed by a Malindi on account of lack of evidence on December 16 of the same year.

Msanzu had been charged with radicalisation, possession of articles connected to the committing of a terrorist act, collection of information for Al-Shabaab and being a member of a terror group.

Another Kenyan Abdirazak Muktar Garad was arrested in Congo in January 2023.

He is accused of masterminding an attack on a Church in North Kivu near the Uganda border which left 10 people dead and at least 39 injured. The 29-year-old who hails from Wajir County is a member of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terror group which operates from Uganda and has sworn allegiance to Isis.

His arrest came exactly a year after that of Salim Rashid Mohamed alias Chotara who was arrested in January 2022 in Congo. He was fighting for the ADF which also operates in Congo.

Mohamed was arrested by citizens and handed over to authorities after a video emerged of him butchering a Congolese soldier.

He was charged for the crime DRC and Kenyan authorities are yet to commence the process of bringing him back into the country to face justice although it is believed that they will do so after he finishes his sentence. He is believed that he fled the country for Congo using the Uganda border in mid-2019 after he was freed on a Sh1.5 million bond in a case where he was charged with being in possession of terror material.

Prior to his arrest, detectives privy to the matter say that he had a brief stint in Mozambique where he fought for Isis.

In early 2017, Mohamed was arrested in Turkey while trying to cross over to Syria while he was a student at Istanbul Kultur University. He was later deported and the country issued a red alert notice on him.

In July this year, in a span of three weeks, Kenyan authorities arrested eleven terror suspects while headed to Somalia to join Isis. Police arrested two Tanzanians; Sadam Jafari Kitia, 30, and Abdirahman Shaffi Mkwatili, 25, on July 12 in Moyale, Marsabit county after they lost their direction to Somalia.

The DCI said that they had a notebook with scribbled Swahili notes that they were using as a guide to Somalia.

Their arrest came after that of three other suspects Abdul Saif Salimu, Zuberi Ngare Mtondoo and Seif Abdalla Juma also from Tanzania in Garissa after they also lost direction to Somalia.

On July 21, police reservists in Garissa County arrested six foreigners as they sought direction to Somalia after a tip off from members of the public.

Investigators say that during interrogation the six admitted that they were on their way to join Al Shabaab after recruitment and facilitation by point men in Uganda and Tanzania.

Five of the suspects are from Tanzania; Muhamed Jahad Farah, Saad Suleiman Saleh and Nadrik Mbwana Salum. Others are Abdul Kadir Salum Seif and Ali Issa Ali, while the sixth Hassan Tourabih Kintosa is from Uganda.