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Muslim cleric, elder charged over bus blast, linked to al-Shabaab

BUSINESS
By | December 23rd 2010

BY WAHOME THUKU

A man who was acquitted of killing 15 people in the 2002 Kikambala hotel bombing five years ago is back in court after being accused of belonging to the outlawed Al-Shabaab militia group.

Aboud Rogo Mohamed, a preacher in Mombasa, together with Abukakar Sharif Ahmed, a Muslim elder from Mombasa, were arraigned before Nairobi Magistrate Grace Macharia charged with engaging in criminal activities and belonging to the outlawed group.

And police are now investigating a link between the two men and the man who detonated a grenade outside a Kampala-bound bus on Monday evening. Police claim a notebook recovered from the scene at Nairobi’s River Road contained telephone contacts of the two suspects.

In June 2003, Rogo, 37, and three others were charged with 15 counts of murder arising from the bombing of Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi. The Israeli-owned hotel was bombed on November 28, 2002. Ten Kenyan and three Israeli tourists were killed and the hotel extensively damaged.

After a two-year trial, Rogo and the co-accused were acquitted on June 9, 2005, with High Court Judge John Osiemo ruling that they had no case to answer.

Aboud Rogo Mohamed and Abubakar Sharif Ahmed Abubakar at Nairobi Law Courts Wednesday, where they were charged with engaging in organised criminal activity by being members of Al-Shabaab. They denied the charges and were remanded until Friday, December 24, as they await their bail application. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]

Rogo and Abubakar were rearrested on Tuesday this week following the grenade explosion outside the Kampala Coach in which the suspected bomber was killed and several other travellers injured

The two suspects immediately denied the charges, but the police applied to have them detained in remand throughout their trial, claiming they were a threat to public safety.

Use of explosives

In an affidavit, Police Superintendent Alfred Majimbo, who is attached to the Anti-Terrorism Unit, told the court the two were trained militiamen with knowledge in use of explosives and other weapons. Letting them free would, therefore, be a threat to public safety and national security, the court heard.

"Intelligence information and preliminary investigation indicate that the accused person is a member of the proscribed organised criminal gang known as the Al-Shabaab," he claimed.

He said the accused had been in and out of Somalia, where they had been meeting their contacts, passing through unofficial routes across the border.

But defence lawyer Mbugua Mureithi opposed the application saying no reasons had been given why the accused should be held in custody during trial. He argued that the two men had not been accused of killing or engaging in any violent acts such as the Kampala bus bombing.

"Even the note book they are talking about as containing telephone contacts of my clients is not in this court," Mureithi added.

He said Kenya still retained diplomatic ties with Somalia, and it was not a crime for anyone to travel to the country as many times as he wished. The court will rule on the issue tomorrow.

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