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Sheikh Aboud Rogo kin unhappy with ‘terror family’ tag by police

COUNTIES
By - NYAMBEGA GISESA | September 2nd 2013
Family members relax under a shade at the late Rogo’s Kikambala home. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

By NYAMBEGA GISESA

[email protected]

 KENYA: A strong feeling of despair and distress hangs heavily around the compound.

This is the home of the late fierce Muslim cleric, Sheikh Aboud Rogo.

Wrecked chairs, rusting metallic beds discarded and an old Pajero car are noticeable.

The door to a chicken coop often opens mysteriously.

The main house is thatched with palm leaves.

Waving palm trees give the place some air of comfort. Chicken and ducks walk freely.

They seem to be the only ones enjoying. The rest, who include the wife and children, are not.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this household. Being termed as a terrorist or militant is a standard procedure for investigative agencies.

What is somewhat peculiar is when all members of a family are branded as terrorists.

The late Rogo’s family’s case is unique: Unlike in many homes where either fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers have been branded terrorists, including that of slain al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, security agencies have termed it a “ terror family.”

After Rogo’s death, his wife and children say they hoped death would make their lives return back to normal. They were wrong. They have just become the new point of attention.

After a decade of going through hell, the family is fighting for its freedom against what it says is “terrorism from the state.”

The last born, aged five, has already experienced terror after witnessing her father being shot.

“How come we are the only family that has terrorists?” Rogo’s family ponders.

Before his death, Aboud Rogo was the crown jewel in Kenya’s and the West’s counter-terrorism strategy. The European Union, US and UK labelled him as an extremist with links to terrorism.

In July 2012, the US government froze Rogo’s assets alongside those of two others: his friend Makaburi and businessman Omar Awadh Omar.

The bulky fierce preacher, born in 1968 in Siyu, Lamu, came to national prominence in November 2002, when alongside his father-in-law and another individual known as Mohamed Kubwa, who also grew up in Lamu, were charged with the Paradise Hotel bombing in Kikambala.

Acquitted

However, they were acquitted of all charges five years later.

Years later, Rogo’s name featured prominently after the killing of Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, East Africa’s biggest terror target believed to have been involved in the planning of the 1998 terror attacks on Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

Police said Rogo hosted Fazul in Siyu between 2001 and 2003, the period which Rogo introduced Fazul to his wife, Amina Kubwa, the sister to Mohamed Kubwa.

With Fazul dead, police believed Rogo was now the main al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab man in the region.

The suspicions seemed to have been confirmed after Rogo’s former student at his religious school, Ahmad Iman Ali, was declared the Amir, or leader of Kenyan fighters in Somalia after Fazul’s death.

Kenya’s only detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Mohammed Abdumalik Bajabu, also allegedly attended prayers at Sakina Mosque at a time when Rogo was preaching jihad at the mosque.

Rogo preached against Operation Linda Nchi, the Kenyan military invasion of Somalia, saying that Somalis should be left alone to manage their country the way they want.

The US said Rogo was not only ideologically opposed to the war on terror, but was also actively participating in destabilising Somalia when he called on youths to travel to Somalia and join arms with the Al-Shabaab militants.

Grenade attack

Rogo was to be arrested after a grenade attack on a Kampala-bound bus in Nairobi. The government never presented any evidence it had against him until his death, over two years later.

On the morning of August 27 last year, Rogo’s car was shot at over 27 times by unidentified people. In total, Rogo had been shot 17 times. His death destabilised Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, with his murder blowing like fire on a windy day through a dry forest.

His supporters buried him as a shahid, a man who died for his faith. Mombasa would miss peace for days. This forced the government to form a taskforce to probe his death.

Last week, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko released a report from the taskforce. The conclusion was that the late Rogo was killed by professionals.

However, the taskforce failed to identify who killed him.

Mr Tobiko ordered for the opening of an inquiry to investigate the cleric’s death.

Rogo’s family has opposed plans to form a public inquiry into his violent death, claiming that the government might have had a role to play in the assassination and should, therefore, leave the family in peace.

His widow, Haniya Saida Saggar, a manager at a madrassa, has said there is no need for the State to misuse public funds in the name of investigating her husband’s death.

A National Intelligence Service (formerly National Security Intelligence Service) report released immediately after the Kampala bombings states that the late Rogo went to Somalia for training, together with his two sons.

“He, however, returned discreetly in May (2010) amid speculation that he could have been compromised to spy for the US,” the report reads.

Training

When we met Elijah Rop, head of Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), he said Khubaib had received training from the Al-Shabaab and fought alongside them against the Ethiopian army in 2006.

He called the teenager an expert marksman. In 2006, Khubaib would only have been about 11 or 12, yet it takes several years of training for one to become a sniper.

The ATPU would make the same allegation against Khubaib’s younger brother, Dhulkifli, who in 2006 was seven years old.

A few weeks ago, we travelled to Kanamai, Rogo’s home in Mombasa, to visit the besieged family and talk to the militant teenagers.

What we found was a remarkable tale of anti-terror security agencies overreach and its consequences - a tale that could represent the beginning of a backlash against the war on terror.

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