A 24-year-old former University of Nairobi law student was the leader of the Al-Shabaab killer squad that slaughtered 148 people at Garissa University College.
Mohammed Abdirahim Abdullahi, the son of Abdullahi Daqare, the chief of Bulla Jamhuri location in Mandera County, will likely go down in history as the mass murderer with the most innocent face.
Nicknamed Ababmo by his classmates at the Law Faculty in Nairobi’s Parklands Campus, he was a sharp dresser, tending to favour tailored suits and loved to shoot pool with his friends.
He had a room on campus but he rarely stayed there, preferring to operate out of Eastleigh, where he was said to run a business selling cooking gas. Classmates assumed that this accounted for the fact that he seemed to have more money than them.
Mr Dedan Wachira, who played pool with him often at Parklands recalled: “I asked him once, and I don’t know whether he was joking or lying, but he told me his suits cost Sh16,000. They looked like they cost that much. He actually introduced me to my first tailor.”
Mr Wachira described his former schoolmate as a well-spoken fellow who did not shy away from making his point of view known in the debates that are regular in law classes.
But below the nice suits and the veneer of normality was a cauldron of hatred and religious fanaticism which culminated in mass murder last week.
Blogger and independent journalist Yassin Juma wrote on his blog that when Abdirahim left home, it was generally known that he had gone to join Al-Shabaab. According to the blogger, Abdirahim’s initial intention was to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) but he did not have a passport.
According to the blogger, Abdirahim’s classmate from Wamy Secondary School, known as Mohamed but nicknamed Atom, managed to fly to Turkey and is assumed to have crossed into Syria to join Isis.
Like Abdirahim, Atom failed to complete his degree course at the University of Nairobi.
A former schoolmate at the university told the Nation Abdirahim might have dropped out to concentrate on becoming a terrorist.
Another friend and classmate from Wamy Secondary School also reportedly joined Al-Shabaab with Abdirahim, said the journalist.
Mandera County Commissioner Alex ole Nkoyo told the Nation the chief had reported that his son would call him using numbers unfamiliar to him and when asked where he was, he would terminate calls.
Mr Nkoyo said he had spoken to the chief on Sunday morning and the administrator had told him he had forgotten about his son and considered him dead until his re-emergence in Garissa.
Mr Nkoyo added that from his interactions with the chief from Bulla Jamhuri, he suspected Abdirahim may have come into contact with extremists while at Wamy High School.
Mr Wachira, who knew Abdirahim, Sunday said of him: “His arguments were very rational. Even in class, he was very rational. That’s why I’m surprised he could have been radicalised.”
Mr Wachira was among several people on Twitter who identified the dead terrorist on the floor in a striped shirt with the left side of his face visible as a former student at the University of Nairobi.
The photographs of the dead terrorists, who were also paraded to the public in Garissa on Saturday, have been widely shared on social media, but Abdirahim was the only one immediately identified.
Abdirahim with an unidentified person.
Abdirahim with an unidentified person.
The Interior Ministry on Sunday said five people had been arrested in connection with the attack.
Three of those who were arrested are suspected to have coordinated the attack and were arrested as they tried to flee to Somalia.
Mr Mwenda Njoka, the ministry’s spokesman, said another two were arrested within the precincts of Garissa University.
“One of those arrested at the university, is a Tanzanian called Rashid Charles Mberesero and was hiding in the ceiling of the university and had grenades when he was arrested during the siege, as officers were smoking out the attackers,” Mr Njoka.
The second person arrested at the university is a guard, Osman Ali Daqare, a Kenyan Somali, suspected to having facilitated the attackers during the dawn attack. The suspect, according to Mr Njoka, had materials with Jihadi tutorials.
Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet said a special unit of the police was holding some of the suspects.
The Interior Ministry said chief Daqare’s sister is reportedly missing. He reported to the authorities in 2014 that his son had disappeared and he suspected that he had gone to Somalia as he could no longer reach him by phone and his social media accounts. His friends were also in the dark about his whereabouts.
Mr Daqare was in Nairobi on Sunday and staying at Al Hamdu Lodge on Twelfth Street in Eastleigh.
A manager at the hotel told the Nation that Mr Daqare appeared depressed on Sunday morning and left the establishment in a hurry, reportedly heading to a relative’s house in South C.
“He has been our customer and he paid a total of Sh5,200 last night but he told us he was getting overwhelmed by the number of phone calls he was getting and has since switched off his phone,” said Mr Farah Aden, the hotel manager.
Reported by Abdimalik Hajir, Stella Cherono, Samwel Born Maina, Eunice Kilonzo and John Ngirachu