An alarming police report put together after a recent terrorism conference now claims that a number of youths in Nairobi are spending up to eight hours daily on terror related websites for recruitment into extremist groups.
The conference with a theme ‘Terrorism: a challenge to emerging democracies in Africa’ was organised to generate sound policy proposals as well as counter-terrorism models suited for the region.
Participants observed poverty, poor development and marginalisation were also driving the youth into extremist groups and urged all to support and monitor devolution.
The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) says some youth have ended up joining groups like Islamic State (ISIS).
Most worrying is the admission by the police that there is little that authorities can do to contain or address the trend. Surveillance on internet usage shows young people, especially in universities spending long hours on terror related websites. NCTC Director Isaac Ochieng’ revealed those targeted are trooping to Syria where they have joined ISIS.
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He said most of those joining the terror groups think it is fashionable to do so. “We know the university where the majority of the students are but I can’t name it. We urge parents to be careful and watchful on their children,” he said.
He added that a combination of internet usage, peer pressure and religion also account to why young people are joining extremist organisations, given that most of them are aged between 20 and 25 years.
Ochieng’ said 100 youths who had crossed to Somalia to join terror group Al Shabaab have come back and surrendered to authorities. “We have met them in efforts to de-radicalise them. They have a story to tell,” he said.
Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro said they have listed dozens of those who have been reported to them as missing or having joined terror groups.
Democracy and terror
Mr Muhoro said most of the recruits may come back to launch terrorism in the country. He also revealed they have accounted for all the 148 people who were killed at the Garissa University College in April.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said democracy without strong institutions has led to a fertile ground for instability and war hence terrorism.
“What democracy promoters must do is try to create favourable institutional conditions most likely to foster transition that results in successful and peaceful consolidation of democracy,” he said.
Those who have since been confirmed to be in Syria include two university students who went missing in April this year. Mahmoud Ahmed and his cousin Mohamed Abdulswamed joined at least six other Kenyan students who have since arrived in Syria to fight alongside the dreaded group.
According police who had been tasked to track down the two, the recruiting agent picked them from Nairobi and drove towards Eastleigh, then hit the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway before ending up at the Busia border.
At Busia, they crossed to Uganda before they drove towards South Sudan up to Juba where they met two other Kenyans who had been waiting for them. Mahmoud is son to a director at the National Museums of Kenya.
Police say the same group that recruited the two girls who also joined ISIS, Salwa Abdalla and Twafiqa Dahir was behind Mahmoud and Abdulswamed’s departure. The two friends Salwa and Twafiqa were students at the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University respectively.
The university student inclination to terrorism comes months after a 24-year-old former University of Nairobi Law student and a banker led the group of Al Shabaab militants that massacred 148 people at Garissa University College. The Government has embarked on a deradicalisation programme and urges youths who had joined the terror group to surrender.