By David Ochami
A UN report has sensationally linked an official of the Kenyan Parliament to the Al Shabaab terrorist group, which has claimed responsibility for scores of deaths from grenade attacks in several parts of the country.
The employee of Kenya’s Parliament in Nairobi supports terrorism and recruitment of jihadist fighters into Somalia, says the UN report monitoring Al Shabaab’s activities in Somalia and Eritrea.
The official is described as “employed by the Kenyan parliament” but also sits on the committee of a city mosque that allegedly finances terrorism and recruitment of fighters in Kenya through a separate entity called Al Hijra.
The report says he provides advice to alleged terror organisations to circumvent the Kenya Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012, and to conceal connections between the terror groups.
His alleged support began last year when Kenya’s anti-terrorism law was enacted, according to the report dated July 12, which suggests that it could be continuing.
The report, which is prepared for the UN Security Council, does not provide his motivation for supporting Al Hijra but suggests that support for Al Shabaab is considered as a ‘religious obligation’ in radical circles and that the man provides specialised services, including concealing links between the committee on which he sits and Al Shabaab and Al Hijra.
The employee sits on the Riyadha Mosque Committee based in Nairobi’s Pumwani slums, which is believed to be the main source of funding for Al Hijra, which supports Al Shabaab’s activities in Kenya, Somalia and the rest of East Africa.
“In October last year, a committee official (Riyadha Mosque Committee) employed at the Kenyan Parliament, began to encourage and advise the committee on ways and means of concealing its support to Al Shabaab through Al Hijra.”
The Standard has reliably learnt the employee works for the Hansard Department, which is responsible for maintaining verbatim records of all parliamentary business in both open and closed-door sessions. We were, however, unable to immediately establish whether he works for the Senate or National Assembly.
Due to the privilege, parliamentary employees have access to swathes of confidential information, including deliberations on sensitive national security matters closed to the public.
If the damning information were proven, it would not only be a serious breach of national security but a stinging indictment of the country’s intelligence services.
Questions will be raised as to how a sympathiser of Al Shabaab, whose incursions into Kenyan territory to kidnap tourists prompted Kenya’s military operation in Somalia, infiltrated one arm of Government. At issue too is how much sensitive information may have got into the wrong hands as a result of the breach.
Contacted by The Standard Sunday, Secretary to the Parliamentary Service Commission Jeremiah Nyegenye promised to respond after reading the report, which also alleges Al Hijra is strengthening its links with affiliates in Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Al Hijra is described as the successor organisation to the defunct Muslim Youth Centre, which was accused in a UN report last year of providing material support for Al Shabaab and recruiting holy fighters into Somalia.
“Over the years, Al Hijra in Kenya and its Somalia-based fighters have proven adept at mobilising resources for Al Shabaab activities in Somalia and the region,” says the report that alleges further that the Pumwani Riyadha Mosque Committee continues to “provide financial support to Al Hijra, particularly its fighters returning from Somalia to Kenya”.
The report seeks to demonstrate that Sheikh Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, also known as Makaburi, a Mombasa-based Muslim cleric, has a ‘growing influence’ over Al Hijra and that Al Hijra and a Tanzania-based group, Ansar Muslim Youth Centre, have sought Makaburi’s “operational direction and guidance” since last year.
Meanwhile, the report also alleges Al Hijra has suffered setbacks since last year following the assassination of its leader Sheikh Aboud Rogo in Mombasa on August 27 last year.
This has weakened its ability to “pursue its declared war inside Kenya” but it is striving to recover lost ground through links with Tanzania’s Ansar Muslim Youth Centre and other groups in Rwanda and Burundi.
Owing to the limited influence and abilities of Al Shabaab’s representative for Somalia, Ahmad Iman, a native of Pumwani now holed up in Somalia, Al Hijra and the Tanzania group have sought support from Makaburi and British terror suspect Jermaine John Grant, says the report that also alleges that besides other support, Makaburi has provided “goodwill donations” to Al Hijra.
And Al Hijra is also said to have received financial assistance from overseas, according to the report, which alleges that on July 31 last year a worker from Riyadha Mosque Committee was arrested in Nairobi after receiving a parcel sent by courier from China, which contained implements “commonly used in the assembly of improvised explosive devices”.
Last Thursday, Makaburi, who is facing multiple terrorism and incitement charges in Mombasa, denounced the new report as a fabrication hatched by the US to tarnish Islam.
He alleged although he has heard about Al Hijra “I do not belong to it” and he was “not a millionaire” to finance terrorism in the region.