Kenyan security agencies and their allies have turned their attention on foreign jihadists whose influx is blamed for attacks in the country.
By the time the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) entered Somalia in 2011, reports suggested there were about 400 jihadists from the West in the ranks of Al-Shabaab but the numbers have significantly increased in the last one year.
Last week, the police placed a Sh10 million bounty on German national Andreas Martin Muller alias “Abu Nusaibah” linked to the botched attack on Baure army camp in Lamu County in which 11 terrorists were killed.
Muller is said to have escaped with injuries from the attack in which British terrorist Thomas Evans alias Abdul Hakim was killed. Mueller is believed to have arrived in Kenya in 2011.
Apart from the two, also on Kenya’s watch-list is Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the White Widow.
According to the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), Lewthwaite is wanted by Kenya over possession of explosives, but local intelligence reports have implicated her in the 2013 Westgate mall attack.
Since the 2010 Kampala bomb attacks, Kenya and her East African counterparts have also been hunting Emrah Erdogan alias Imraan AL-Kurdy alias Salahaddin AL-Kurdy, a German of Turkish origin, and Ahmed Khaled Andreas.
Al-Kurdy who is also a suspect in the attack on Assanands House along Moi Avenue, Nairobi in 2012, was arrested on June 12 that year, but released in unclear circumstances. Al-Kurdy, Andreas and Muller were linked to the Kampala bombings in which majority of suspects on trial are Kenyans.
Another Briton, Jermaine Grant, is in custody at Shimo La Tewa prison facing trial on terror charges. Sascha Alessandro Boettcher, on arrival in Kenya in September 22, 2010, was arrested at a private residence in Mtwapa, Mombasa and deported to Germany.
Among Al-Shabaab, foreign fighters are known as Muhajireen. A majority are from the US, Canada, UK and Saudi Arabia.
The foreign jihadists are feared and respected within Al-Shabaab ranks, since they “come with experience having fought for the Taliban and Isis,” the source added.
“Kenya can easily overcome Syria as a place for Europeans seeking jihad,” says David Anderson, a Horn of Africa expert and professor of African history at the University of Warwick, UK.
Last week, KDF spokesman Colonel David Obonyo said the military had received information on the presence of white jihadists in Lamu County.
The Standard has established that the US has strengthened its army base in Kismayu through which it is constantly sharing intelligence with KDF and other Amisom troops.
“Although the base was set up in 2013, it only became fully operational late last year due to the increased need for support and co-operation, especially when dealing with the foreign jihadists,” said a source.
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Kenyan security agencies have profiled foreign jihadists, some of whom feature on Interpol’s “Red Notice” and the US Central Intelligence Agency’s and Joint Special Operations Command lists.
Although Thomas Evans is the first reported case of a British Islamist militant being killed on Kenyan soil, the highest-profiled British Al-Shabaab supporter is Lewthwaite who stands accused of conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011.
In May this year, US counter-terrorism agencies announced that 40 Americans were recruited to join Al-Shabaab, mostly through online propaganda videos.