The man jailed for life on Friday after pleading guilty to grenade attacks in Nairobi is representative of a new breed of Al-Shabaab recruits Kenyan security agents are fighting in the war on terror.
The new conscripts of the Somali-based extremist group are mainly upcountry youth and recent converts to Islam, typical of Elgiva Bwire Oliacha, alias Mohamed Saif.
Bwire, whose mother said he was brought up in a strict Catholic family, was jailed for life on Friday after admitting that he was an Al-Shabaab member. (READ: Grenade man sentenced to life in prison)
At the heart of Al-Shabaab bases in Somalia, the outfit has been nicknamed “Kenyan Mujahideen,” while local police have described it as “a batch of misguided youth”.
The new face is represented by young men from different Kenyan ethnic groups, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere revealed after Monday’s grenade explosions that killed a man and injured 28 other people. (READ: Nairobi grenade attack injures 14)
It is a departure from the typical profile of an Al-Shabaab membership from Somalia and sympathisers from local Somalis.
It is also a marked difference from the youth from Mombasa and other coastal towns attracted to the jihadist ideology.
Bwire comes from Busia in Western Kenya and attended schools in Nairobi.
Other accused in the same attacks, Mr Omar Muchiri Athuman and Mr Stephen Macharia Mwangi, pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody.
An intelligence report seen by the Nation warned of the emerging terror trend last year after 76 people were killed in bomb attacks in Kampala.
“The groups are increasingly targeting individuals from local communities for recruitment, indoctrination, training and ultimately, executing acts of terrorism,” reads part of the report.
It was corroborated by a report from the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
“Since 2009, the group has rapidly expanded its influence and membership to non-Somali Kenyan nationals who today constitute the largest and most structurally organised non-Somali group within Al-Shabaab,” reads the UN report.
Mr Iteere confirmed: “We have many who fight alongside Al-Shabaab, not from the Somali community, but all parts of Kenya including Luhya, Kikuyu and Kambas. These are the people we are trailing at the moment.
“They come from all parts of Kenya.” The intelligence report says that some of the new recruits are, however, having second thoughts.
The report cites one of the converts, who helped plan the Kampala bombings, but turned informant for Kenya security agents, complaining that planners who were Somali citizens “returned safely to their country while non-Somalis who did the dirty work were abandoned to face the law.”
In the Kampala attacks, a suicide bomber identified as Kakasule was from Kakamega in Western province.
Others who were arraigned in court include Sheikh Idriss Magondu (Christopher Magondu) Habib Suleiman Njoroge and Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia.
They were arrested separately in Kawangware, Athi River and Tanzania following the Kampala bombings.
On December 3 last year, two men who were shot dead after throwing a grenade at police officers at the Roysambu roundabout in Kasarani were linked to Al-Shabaab were Kikuyu and Kamba.
Leaders from Northern Kenya have repeatedly called on the government not to stigmatise Somalis in their onslaught on Al-Shabaab, saying they too have suffered from the militia group.
“This group is like the Mungiki in Kenya. Who have suffered more from the group? It is the Kikuyu.
“Al-Shabaab have been killing Kenyan Somalis in North Eastern Kenya and it goes unreported,” says Wajir West MP Mohammed Affey.