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Muslim convert to hang for mass murder

By Willis Oketch | July 7th 2015

A former Mungiki member who converted to Islam and trained with Al Shabaab has been sentenced to death after pleading guilty to participating in last year’s mass slaughter of villagers in Lamu County alongside slain British jihadist Thomas Evans.

Gituge Ngamau is now being held at Shimo la Tewa Prison in Mombasa pending transfer to Naivasha Maximum Security Prison.

During his year-long trial, he was remanded in a solitary cell at Railway Police Station in Mombasa to protect him from possible attack by other inmates detained on similar charges.

A statement he gave to the police said two white men participated in the planning of the massacres and actual killings. Police believe the white men being referred to were Thomas and German jihadist Andreas Mueller alias Abu Nusaibah.

He said there was tension in Hindi over land and a senator bought off squatters in the disputed land in 2012.

The mass slaughter, blamed on Al Shabaab, began in Mpeketoni, Lamu on June 14 when 65 were killed and ended mid-July with the killing of policemen and villagers in Hindi (Lamu) and Gamba police station in neighbouring Tana River County.

Ngamau, who was convicted last week on Thursday, was born in Likoni, Mombasa in 1979. He took the Muslim name Mohamed Ali after converting to Islam in March 2002.

He confessed to killing 12 villagers in Hindi on July 5 last year, in statements under inquiry and in court. He has already testified against other suspects charged over the same murders.

The convict moved to Hindi around 2010 or 2011, according to his confession but it is not clear whom he was living with or if he had any relatives in the county.

He told police plans to unleash violence began in secret meetings in Lamu in 2014 and that “two white people with long beard and long hair” attended some of the meetings.

in camera

Ngamau also claimed local businessmen supplied weapons, identified victims and paid killers after the slaughter. “Others in the meeting (of July 5, 2014) were several Somalis and two white people with long beard and long hair. One was short and the other was tall,” said the convict’s statement, adding he was assigned the duty of identifying Christian men to be killed and allocated a Kalashnikov rifle.

Violence erupted hours after the alleged meeting at the home of a local elder and lasted until July 6. He told police he was paid Sh20,000 after killing 12 people and further alleged a white jihadist decapitated some victims on the night of July 17 last year in Hindi.

His trial was held in camera since his arrest at an Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Hindi on July 17 last year, to protect witnesses.

According to police reports, the convict was arrested with a cell phone stolen from a survivor of the attack. This survivor identified Ngamau at the camp, leading to his arrest.

This was the first successful conviction from the gory events whose legacy continues to haunt Lamu.

On the first anniversary of last year’s slaughter, Al Shabaab militants attacked Baure Kenya Defence Forces  camp in Lamu, killing two soldiers. Eighteen  militants, including Thomas, Luqman Osman Issa, Said Abdalla Hemed and Abdulkadir Rehani (who belonged to a cell within Al Shabaab called Jaysh al Ayman) were also killed.

“I regret for my involvement, for having joined this illegal group and I have not benefited from it and I ask the Government to be lenient to me. Formally, I was a Mungiki member before I joined Al Shabaab,” said the convict, adding he returned the rifle and a knife to a businessman involved in the planning of the attack.

The judge declared that, because Ngamau killed in cold blood, he also ought to be put to death.

“The only sentence known in law is death if the offence is murder. I therefore order you to suffer death after you pleaded guilty to the murder charge,” said Justice Muya.

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