Police are hunting for three people suspected to have recruited 13 youths from Kilifi and Lamu counties into the al-Shabaab terror group based in Somalia.
The youths were rescued by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) at Ras Kamboni in Somalia last Sunday after their parents told the police their sons had called home saying they were in trouble.
On Monday, Malindi police boss Matawa Muchangi received the youths at the Malindi International Airport after landing in a police helicopter from Kiunga in Lamu following the rescue mission.
On Tuesday, Kilifi County Commissioner Magu Mutindika, who took the youths to their families, said two suspects are residents of Kilifi and Lamu counties while details of the third suspect are still unknown.
“One of the suspects, a resident of Marereni and a fish monger, is said to have given the youths Sh5,000 each with a promise of giving them a better paying fishing job at Kiunga,” he said.
He said the youths were later forced to travel by boat to Somalia in order to join the terror group before they were rescued by KDF and Somali forces.
Mr Mutindika, who was accompanied by county police bosses, said they will work with the National Counter-Terrorism Centre to mentor and counsel the rescued youths.
At the same time, the county commissioner warned those behind radicalisation, violent extremism and recruitment of youths into al-Shabaab that their days were numbered.
“Those youths who were recruited into al-Shabaab should take advantage of the government’s amnesty period and surrender to security personnel,” he said.
He also advised the public to liaise with the Labour ministry and the immigration department to obtain work permits and travel documents while travelling for jobs abroad to avoid being victims of circumstances.
Parents and guardians who reunited with their sons claimed the man said to have lured their children into al-Shabaab is a renowned fish monger in Marereni.
“My elder brother who is a fisherman had travelled with the man to Kiunga to catch crabs only for us to receive a phone call that he is suffering in Somalia,” said Mr Saida Ngala at the police station.
Ms Rose Kiraga, a resident of Marereni who was filled with joy after seeing his son alive, said the suspect was once arrested and later released by police after residents launched complaints that their sons were taken to Somalia without their knowledge.
A senior security officer on Monday told journalists that the KDF has rescued more than 1,100 youths since 2011.