Why this man holds vital clues to Shabaab

Thursday January 12 2012

29-year-old British citizen Jermaine Grant, stands inside the dock at the Mombasa Law court on January 12, 2012

AFP PHOTO/SIMON MAINA 29-year-old British citizen Jermaine Grant, stands inside the dock at the Mombasa Law court on January 12, 2012 as he awaits the opening of his trial on charges of possessing explosive materials and conspiracy to commit a felony, following his arrest in December 2011 in the Kenyan coastal resort of Mombasa.  

By FRED MUKINDA [email protected]

Police have reported a breakthrough in counter-terrorism, following the arrest of a British national in Mombasa last month.

Security officials say information they got after interrogating Jermaine Grant, 29, has shed light on previously unknown facts about Al-Shabaab and would be used to cripple the Somalia-based terrorist group.

Police officers privy to the contents of the statements, however, declined to divulge the details, saying it could compromise the war against terrorism.

Grant alias Ali Mohamed is serving three years in jail after a Mombasa court convicted him of being in Kenya illegally and giving false information to police.

He was sentenced after pleading guilty to the charges but denied two other terrorism related charges. The case is scheduled to resume in court on Friday.

Another security official told the Nation that Grant would face more charges after interrogations linked him to a raid on Dadajabula police station in Wajir three years ago.

During the raid, a police officer was shot and injured, and guns stolen. Grant was among suspects rescued from custody.

And when police officers arrested him on December 20, they did not realise initially that they had caught a most wanted suspect until his picture was published by the Daily Nation on December 28 last year.

A hawk-eyed police officer, who had booked him at the Dadajabula station in 2008, recognised his face.

He immediately informed his boss, who then phoned the anti-terrorism unit headquarters in Nairobi and Grant was recalled from jail for further investigation.

Besides lying to police that he was a Canadian called Peter Joseph — the charge that landed him the sentence — the other pending charges he denied include being in possession of explosive materials and conspiracy to improvise an explosive device with the intent to kill.

During the 2008 raid, two other Al-shabaab suspects, who had been arrested together with Grant, also escaped. The trio had been arrested while trying to enter Somalia disguised as women.

Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Kenya days after his arrest and the detectives, together with their Kenyan counterparts, interrogated him.

In the UK, the Sunday Times traced his home to Newham. The newspaper reported that he had served a seven-year jail term after being convicted of rape when he was a 14-year-old.

“Grant was jailed for seven years and started his sentence at Feltham young offenders’ institution in West London.

His mother Michelle revealed that he converted to Islam while behind bars,” the Sunday Times reported.

The media report also mentioned Reid, a self-confessed Al-Qaeda recruit who is serving a life sentence for trying to blow up a transatlantic passenger jet in 2001, also converted to Islam while serving a stint at the prison.

Mr Fuad Abubakar and Ms Warda Breik were charged alongside Jermaine. The woman was identified as Grant’s wife, whom he had married two days before he was arrested.