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Boda boda rider Victor Bwire jailed 20 years over plot to bomb KICC

 Victor Odede Bwire in te dock at a Milimani court where he was accused that on January 2019 with others not before court conspired to commit a terrorist act at the KICC. [George Njunge, Standard]

Victor Odede Bwire looked subdued. The father of two was part of a terror group that was planning to bring down the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

However, yesterday, the verdict by Milimani Magistrate Bernard Ochoi that he should be locked behind bars for 20 years seemed to beat his soul to a pulp. The long hand of the law had finally caught up with him and he regretted it, his lawyer said.

Clad in a sky blue shirt, the man blankly faced the courtroom as his lawyer Chacha Mwita, and senior prosecution counsel Harrison Kiarie, battled for leniency.

Chacha said the boda boda rider was remorseful, while Kiarie urged the court to consider that the iconic building can hold up to 10,000 persons at a go and key government buildings including the Judiciary, Parliament, Vigilance House, and the Office of the President among others surround it.

Then came the hour of reckoning. Each word Ochoi said turned Bwire's blank face to a crestfallen one. When the magistrate was done, his face was filled with disappointment and regret.

The prosecution told a Milimani court that Bwire was arrested after intelligence uncovered the plot to attack KICC. It said a forensic analysis of phones seized from the suspect showed he had sent information on KICC's security arrangement to contacts in Somalia.

Bwire was accused that on January 23, 2019 jointly with others and together with Mohamed Yare Abdalla, who was outside Kenya, conspired to commit a terrorist act at KICC. He faced a separate charge of collecting information to aid a terror act.

The charge sheet read that on the said date at Nairobi's Umoja area, Bwire collected and transmitted information on the security arrangement of KICC using his phone to the holder of a Facebook account Mohamed Yare Abdalla, information intended for use in the commission of a terror act.

The court heard that KICC security officials knew Bwire as an employee of AL-Tc Africa which used to deal with exhibition stands. At the same time, it emerged that he briefly worked for another company called Protect Exhibitors in 2017 which was doing the same work of erecting exhibition stalls.

They said they knew Bwire as a humble gentleman and never received any complaints against him. But all this time, he was a spy.

Detectives unravelled the entire plot from Facebook accounts "Kim Sam", "Abdul Hakim", "Kezia Soze", "Mohamed Yare Abdala" and "Soze Kezia".

According to police sergeant Joseph Mwiti, Bwire was instructed by Yare via Facebook to ride a motorcycle from Nairobi to Moyale with the aim of collecting information on the number of roadblocks and the kind of searches that police were conducting. He was also to ride a bus and do the same exercise.

The intel was to be used by terrorists who would be tasked to carry out different attacks in the country, mostly targeting Nairobi's Central Business District.

Two people were arrested by police in Merti, Isiolo County, when a vehicle they were in was later found to have been strapped with an explosive. This vehicle was to be driven into KICC for the attack.

After the attack was foiled, investigators believe that the intel collected was later used by the five attackers who hit the DusitD2 complex on January 15, 2019.

In his judgment, Ochoi said that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said there was no doubt that the information collected by Bwire and turned over would have been crucial in the execution of the attack.

He said the communication between Bwire and his handlers tabled in court showed that Bwire was warned that the assignment that lay ahead would be difficult but he went ahead and offered the information.

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) specialists, and mobile service providers Safaricom and Airtel helped the prosecution put a case against Bwire. The communication and Sh10,000 sent to him were linked to the plot.

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