Al Shabaab recruiting youths by force, says KDF chief

Chief of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), General Samson Mwathethe addresses the media after wounded soldiers serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) arrived at the Wilson Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi, January 17, 2016. Al Shabaab is now forcibly recruiting youths at the Coast, KDF has said. (PHOTO: REUTERS/ THOMAS MUKOYA)

Al Shabaab is now forcibly recruiting youths at the Coast, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) has said.

Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe said the Somali-based Islamist group has lost its appeal to the youths and is now using force to recruit them.

He, however, said that the country is still facing threats and urged parents and communities to remain vigilant.

"Terror groups like Al Shaabab have changed their tactics of recruiting and training people. Apart from the normal process of radicalising the youth, the groups have now shifted to actually forcing the youths to join them," said Mwathethe when he visited his rural home in Jila Ganze, Kwale County.

In May, an Islamist militant who surrendered to the government in Kwale after he renounced Al Shabaab in February this year was shot dead in Shamu village.

Police said Subira Sudi Mwangole, who surrendered to Kenyan authorities at Matuga School of Government, was executed by Al Shabaab agents, apparently for ditching the group last year.

Three other people, including a village elder, were shot dead in Ukunda, Kwale County, in the same month by suspected Al Shabaab members.

Kwale County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka said Juma Mwanyota (village chair), Hassan Mwasanite and Mohammed Mwanguze were killed by Al Shabaab returnees in retaliatory attacks following recent police swoops in the area.

Speaking in Kilifi over the weekend, Mwathethe said the Government is determined to hunt down Al Shabaab remnants and sympathisers in the country.

"Kenya is one of the many countries in the world which are currently facing the challenge of terror attacks and it's the responsibility of all Kenyans to be alert and expose suspects to the relevant security agencies," he said.

Burning schools

Mwathethe also condemned the students unrest in the country.

He said preliminary investigations had shown that students were burning school buildings for fear of sitting examinations.

"The Government will not take lightly the student unrest...such students will be arrested and get treated as criminals before they are prosecuted," said Mwathethe who cautioned students against being involved in unbecoming behaviour.