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Profile of Sheikh Abubakar Shariff alias Makaburi

By Nyambega Gisesa | April 2nd 2014

By Nyambega Gisesa

[email protected]


Sheikh Abubakar alias Makaburi had long predicted his death. “It’s not an issue of if, but when,” he would say.

Makaburi was shot dead outside Shanzu Law Courts where the Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko said he intended to transfer the case in which Makaburi is charged with being an Al-Shabaab member for security reasons.

 Throughout his life, Makaburi was a controversial figure who supported the Al-Shabaab onslaught on Kenyans (although he denied being a member of Al-Shabaab), advocated for introduction of Shariah law and said that the Westgate Mall attacks were justified.

He was also a favourite subject by journalist for interviews with many travelling far and wide to listen to his rich rhetoric and straight-forward answers on terror and Islam issues.

Makaburi was among the most interviewed hard-line cleric in the country, with his voice calling for jihad, for news and television programs from Al-Jazeera, CNN to KTN.

He did little to hide his firebrand leaning stating ‘It's our innocents for your innocents, ’ as a call on what he termed as ‘true Muslims’ to attack Christians.

An NIS Situation Report  dated February 1, 2012 Serial No.023/2013 leaked after the Westgate attacks said that Makaburi was planning to launch attacks countrywide.

 The report read “ABUBAKAR SHARIFF aka ABU MAKABURI is in the forefront of the planning and has been gathering arms in preparation for attacks countrywide.”

It went on to identify some of his targets “VIPS, polling stations on the Election Day and buildings such as Times Towers. Notably, Times Tower has been severally mentioned as being very busy on Mondays and Fridays, and that the security has been observed to be lax."

The report indicated that his “envisaged modus operandi include, but is not exclusive to, Mumbai-attack style, where the operatives storm into a building with guns and grenades and probably hold hostages.”

The Westgate Mall attack was almost similar to the NIS description.

Since 2012, Makaburi is now the third Muslim cleric to be killed.

The first one was Sheikh Aboud Rogo, who was shot dead in mysterious circumstances in August 2012.  Less than two months later, his successor was also gunned down in the same manner.

Makaburi was a close friend to Rogo, a friendship that lasted for nearly a decade.

The controversial cleric said that the police were using Sheikh Rogo and himself as “pawns in the war on terror.”

US Sanctions List

In September 2012, he told the writer that he was a target of a police hit squad.

Makaburi who died at the age of 45 was one of the three Kenyans on the US government Sanctions List for alleged involvement in terror activities.

 The others are the late  Sheikh Rogo and Omar Awadh Omar, who is currently in a Ugandan jail, accused of involvement in the 2010 world Cup bombings in Kampala .

Makaburi earned a living from managing two flats belonging to his sister. The flats had 14 tenants.

 He jeered at the US sanctions saying ‘I don’t have a bank account and I don’t have any savings. So, what assets of mine did the US government freeze?’

On August 23, 2012, the UN Security Council Committee on Somalia and Eritrea also added his name to a list of individuals and entities subject to travel bans, assets freezes and targeted arms embargoes.

The UN accused Makaburi of “leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia, and a close associate of Aboud Rogo. He provides material support to extremist groups in Kenya (and elsewhere in East Africa).

The Security Council said that Makaburi was “a leader of a Kenya-based youth organisation in Mombasa with ties to Al-Shabaab” and that he acted as a “recruiter and facilitator for Al-Shabaab in the Majengo area of Mombasa.”

He was further accused of “engaging in the mobilisation and management of funding for Al-Shabaab… and preached at mosques in Mombasa that young men should travel to Somalia, commit extremist acts, fight for Al-Qaeda, and kill US citizens.”

Operation Linda Nchi

Makaburi called for Kenya Defence Forces troops to abandon the Operation Linda Nchi telling the writer that Kenya ‘should leave the Horn of Africa country alone.’ He added, ‘Kenya Defence Forces is leading an illegal fight in Somalia.’

‘Youths have asked me if they can get help from Al-Shabaab” he said suggesting links to the outlawed Al-Shabaab militants.

Makaburi was first arrested on December 21, 2010 alongside Sheikh Rogo, days after a Kampala Coach bus bombing in Nairobi and charged for engaging in an organised criminal activity, being members of Al-Shabaab, contrary to Section 3(3) as read with Section 4(1) of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, 2010.

“I have waited for evidence to be presented against me since then but the police never brought anything to court,” he told The Standard last month. It’s this case that the DPP had applied to be moved from Mombasa to Shanzu Law courts.

Last week on Wednesday, the controversial preacher was awarded Sh670, 000 in damages for unlawful detention of his property after a police raid in his house four years ago.

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