Garissa, Garissa County, Kenya –
Kenyan security forces apprehended six foreign nationals on their way to join the notorious al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia. Among those arrested were five Tanzanians and a Ugandan, highlighting the alarming transnational reach of al-Shabaab’s recruitment machinery.
The Tanzanian nationals – Muhamed Jahad Farah, Saad Suleiman Saleh, Nadrik Mbwana Salum, Abdul Kadir Salum Seif, and Ali Issa Ali – along with Ugandan Hassan Tourabih Kintosa, were taken into custody in Garissa. Their capture resulted from a tip-off from vigilant members of the public, indicating a promising collaboration between security agencies and the local population.
Upon questioning, the arrested admitted their intention to join al-Shabaab, a terrorist organisation based in Somalia. Disturbingly, the suspects disclosed that they had been recruited and supported by handlers based in Tanzania and Uganda, raising concerns about the extent of al-Shabaab’s recruitment network within East Africa.
Exposing recruitment pattern
Security experts have noted a disturbing trend in the travel arrangements of these recruits. To avoid suspicion, these potential terrorists are meticulously provided with travel instructions and cautioned against raising any concerns during their journey.
Three weeks ago, Kenyan authorities detained another group of Tanzanian nationals, marking the second incident of this kind in a short period of time. After getting lost on their way to Somalia, 30-year-old Sadam Jafari Kitia and 25-year-old Abdirahman Shaffi Mkwatili were detained in Moyale. Kenyan Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said the two were guided by a notebook scribbled in Swahili that described the journey from Tanzania to Jilib in Somalia.
Three more Tanzanians had been intercepted days earlier. Abdul Saif Salimu, Zuberi Ngare Mtondoo and Seif Abdalla Juma got lost and stranded in the Karakora area within Garissa County before the public reported them to the police. In a separate incident, a Ugandan national was nabbed at the Liboi border crossing en route to Somalia.
Cooperation of the public needed
The successful interceptions emphasise the need for closer ties between security officers and locals. Regional commissioner John Otieno lauded the community efforts, urging ongoing cooperation against this security concern. Public service vehicle operators were, in particular, called upon to exert vigilance and report suspicious foreign activity in the region.