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Police hold suspected Shabaab recruit after he surrenders

Wednesday January 8 2020

Al-Shabaab returnee

A man who had been recruited by Al-Shabaab during an interview in 2014 after he left the terror group. On January 3, 2020, a suspected Al-Shabaab returnee walked into a church in Kilifi County and asked to be prayed for. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN OCHARO
By BRIAN OCHARO
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On January 3, a suspected al-Shabaab returnee walked into a church in Kilifi County and asked to be prayed for.

The suspect, whose identity cannot be revealed due to ongoing investigations, sought help from the church to “reconnect with God”.

At the church, the 30-year-old man confessed his “sins” and said he wanted to repent for he had wandered away.

After the prayer, the man of cloth then decided to escort the suspect to the police where they both recorded statements before the suspect was arrested.

TRAINED IN SOMALIA

Sources close to the ongoing investigations revealed that the man confessed that he crossed into Somalia where he received training before returning to Kenya.

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“After coming back, he changed his mind and decided to seek help from the church. He confessed his ‘sins’ and asked that he be prayed for and put right with God,” the source said.

The man, who is now helping police with investigations, was on Tuesday charged in court where officers from the Anti-Terror Police Unit asked to be allowed to continue holding him as they extract information from him.

While asking for more time to interrogate the suspect, investigator David Mureithi said it is believed the man has crucial information that will assist them in their investigations.

ARRESTED

“We arrested the suspect at the church where he had gone to be prayed for and he was taken to the police station. We believe the respondent is connected to offences or has information which may assist me in my investigations,” the investigator told Mombasa Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti.

In an affidavit sworn in court, the investigator said that once they get vital information from the suspect, the details will assist them in arresting more terror suspects who are suspected to be hiding in the country.

State Counsel Erick Masila told the court that investigators also need to travel to the suspect’s rural home to recover a mobile phone that he had allegedly given to a family member to keep for him after returning into the country.

SIM CARD

“Police recovered a Safaricom sim card from the suspect at the time of the arrest. The detectives will subject the card, which we believe has more information in relation to the offence, to forensic analysis. This process is likely to take long,” the prosecutor said.

The court was also told that police need more time to finalise recording statements from potential witnesses.

“Police are yet to record statements and complete investigations, thus it is imperative that the respondent be informed the reasons for his continued detention pending conclusion of the probe,” said Masila.

DETAINED

The suspect did not object to the police request to hold him for 10 more days as investigations continue.

“I have no objection to the police application,” the suspect, who had no legal representation, said.

Once investigations are complete, the suspect will be charged with being a member of al-Shabaab terror group.

“The application by the prosecution is granted in respect of the prayers sought,” the magistrate said.

The case will be mentioned on January 23.

RETURNEE AMBUSHED

The suspect surrendered to police two days after another suspected al-Shabaab returnee, Omar Salim Unda, was ambushed and killed by unknown assailants.

The attackers ambushed the 27-year-old and shot him three times in the head and neck while he was driving to his home in Dabaso, Kilifi County, on New Year's eve.

Those who witnessed the 7 pm incident reported that the man was heading to Timboni in Watamu when he was attacked near Dabaso Primary School.

The assailants, who were in two vehicles, are said to have blocked the man’s car near the junction, dragged him out car and sprayed him with bullets.

Mr Unda had been on police radar for the last three years. He was once arrested but released without any charges.

CRIMINAL GANGS

Police intelligence has indicated that suspected al-Shabaab returnees have now joined criminal gangs that are behind a series of robberies targeting businesses at the Coast.

The returnees, according to intelligence reports, are from Kwale and Mombasa counties where their hideouts are based.

The report followed the killing of a suspected gangster linked to an armed robbery on two businessmen who lost Sh660,000. Police said they suspected the gangster was a returnee.