Former Al Shabaab, gang members, recruited to combat terrorism at the Coast

Al-Shabaab militia carrying their weapons patrolling in Somalia. [Photo: Courtesy]

Security authorities in Kwale and Mombasa now intend to use reformed gang members and Al Shabaab returnees to combat violent crimes in the two counties.

Mombasa County Commissioner Evans Achoki said those recruited will lead advocacy against extremism and terrorism.

The State has been offering amnesty to Al Shabaab members who abandon the group and renounce violence.

Last week, reformed gang members in Mombasa were given fishing nets, boats and cash tokens to enable them venture into business as they integrate into normal life in a programme funded by the European Union and implemented by the Kenya Red Cross.

Mr Achoki, who led security officials to review the 12 pillars of Mombasa County Action Plan for preventing and countering violent extremism in Likoni, announced that the new campaign will start on February 26.

About 300 youth from Likoni attended the meeting held at Shika Adabu in Likoni.

Returnees will engage in outreach programmes targeting other young people.

"We are targeting the returnees. We are looking for them so that they can champion the process and sensitise other youth in the county," said Achoki.

He said the youth to be engaged have already been identified and will soon meet all security officials to develop a rapport and plan of action.

But the announcement elicited mixed reactions, with some youth saying they would only participate after guarantees of security and full amnesty.

Ali Juma (not his real name), once a hardcore criminal, told The Standard that he still feels vulnerable to attacks because many local residents still appear unwilling to forgive past criminals and Al Shabaab members.

A security source from anti-terrorism police who did not wish to be named argued that the initiative might work depending on the approach.

The source confirmed claims that many residents do not trust anyone associated with Al Shabaab and terrorism.