Three arrested on their way to join ISIS in Puntland

Terror suspects Ayub Omar Bwanaadi, Mohamed Omar Bwanaadi and Kassim Ahmed Ali, who were arrested by ATPU aboard a Moyale-bound bus, on April 7, 2023, in Isiolo County. [Courtesy]

A case filed by the state against three men who were arrested on their way to join the Islamic State (IS) in Puntland, Somalia has lifted the lid on the growing influence of the terror group in Africa.

ISIS or Daesh now has a presence in South Africa, Mozambique, DRC, Somalia as well as the Sahel region.

Two brothers Ayub Bwanaadi, 32, and Mohammed Bwanaadi, 22 as well as Kassim Ahmed, 29 were arrested in Isiolo County on April 7 aboard a Moyale-bound bus by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU).

The three have been on the run from the police after warrants were issued against them for crimes, they are suspected to have committed in their home County, Lamu.

They were then arraigned at the Kahawa Law Courts on April 11, where police were given 30 days to detain them as they continue with investigations.

During their interrogation, the three said that they travelled from Tanzania through Lungalunga to Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate and were to cross over to Ethiopia before eventually moving to Somalia to join the terror group.

They sneaked into the country from Tanzania where they have been hiding after investigations linked them to the murder of police officers, chiefs, their assistants, nyumba kumi and community leaders in Lamu County.

The three men during their interrogation told police that the plan to join Daesh in Puntland was mooted by Ali Omar Bwanadi who is Ayub and Mohammed’s brother, police believe is currently in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Ali fled from Kenya to Tanzania after he realized that he was being sought by the police over alleged involvement in the killing of security officers and government officials in Lamu County.

Police believe that the three men chose to flee to Puntland after Kenyan authorities sought help from Tanzania authorities to apprehend them.

Ali is said to have introduced them to a facilitator based in Mombasa who sent them Sh150,000 for their travels.

The three men then travelled to Mombasa through Lungalunga with the help of bodaboda riders and boarded a bus to Mombasa town.

Once in Mwembe Tayari, Mombasa they were by the handler whom they told investigators is known to them as Abdi, he then transferred them into a waiting vehicle that was to move them to Eastleigh.

Abdi gave them the contact of a man who received and hosted them in Eastleigh for a number of days before giving them new sim cards to avoid detection by authorities.

He also trained them on personal security and counterintelligence as they made their way to Ethiopia, where they were to get new identity cards that for easy travel to Puntland.

The three men then boarded the Moyale bound bus before their arrest in Isiolo on April 7.

 The Bwanaadi brothers told police that they did not know who Kassim was, but police believe that it is a big coincidence that they all hail from the same village, had been on the same journey, share a criminal history and had links with Al Shabaab in Boni Forest.

On March 1, 2016, Kassim was arrested by police together with Ali Omar Bwanadi, Muhammed Kassim Abdalla and Mustafa Kheri Shali at the Busia border point while trying to cross over to Uganda on their way to join ISIS in Libya. By the time of their arrest, the four had pending cases in Mombasa.

Police also believe that Ayub, Mohammed and Kassim are connected to the killing of Mbwajumwali area Senior Chief Mohamed Haji Famau, 45, and Myabogi sublocation assistant Chief Malik Athman Shee, 43, in Haji’s office on December 12, 2019.

According to investigators, two men walked into Haji’s office wearing buibui's and face veils and attacked the two with machetes in broad daylight.

Their killing followed that of police officer Rodgers Odhiambo of the Tchundwa Police Post in Lamu East on October 5, 2019. He was hacked to death by unknown people as he walked out of a shop in the village.

Another officer, Hesbon Okemwa also attached to the police station was killed by unknown people on June 8, 2020. His badly mutilated body was found in a mangrove forest in Kizingitini.

Their deaths at the time were linked to drug barons in the area but investigators believe the extremists took advantage of the situation in the County to execute or the two crimes may be related.

The killing of the four government employees was not isolated as three years before that another brother to Ayub, Ali, Mohammed Bwanadi and his friend were sentenced to 28 years in prison after they were found guilty of killing a chief identified as Mohamed Shee Omar in 2016.

During their sentencing High Court Judge Langat Korir said that Bwanadi Omar Bwanadi and Abdi Ali Mohamed had malicious intent to kill the chief if the postmortem is anything to go by.

Mr Shee who was 57, was hacked to death while on his way to work. A postmortem produced in court showed that he suffered deep cuts on his upper body.

The three will be taken to court on Thursday, May 11, 2023.