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Families question police silence on missing men arrested over attacks

Wednesday January 2 2013

By ANTHONY KITIMO [email protected]

Mr Bandru Mramba was busy in his shop one November morning when strangers approached him and introduced themselves as police officers.

They wanted to question him on terrorism-related issues.

Mr Mramba was arrested on the morning of November 14 and he has never been seen since then and police say they do not know of his whereabouts.

He was a close ally of Muslim preacher Aboud Rogo who was shot dead under unexplained circumstances, sparking riots in Mombasa.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko set up a taskforce to investigate the killing, but the inquiry has not yet been concluded.

Mr Mramba’s family members yesterday asked the police to arraign him in court if he is suspected to have been involved in terrorism instead of keeping them in the dark.

Mr Khalid Kiriwa, a son of Mr Mramba, said for almost two months they have not had any information about their father.

“We wished to see him before the end of last year but in vain. We hope as the year starts the police will bring him either to court or release him,” said Mr Kiriwa.

Worried wife

The family has unsuccessfully followed up the matter with the Muslim for Human Rights (Muhuri) and other organisations.

Ms Rehema Lugogo, Mr Mramba’s wife, said her missing husband was arrested with seven other people who have since been prosecuted.

“My husband was arrested in his shop where he sells snacks opposite the Masjid Musa Mosque, a few hours after attending the wedding of a daughter of Sheikh Rogo in Kikambala,” she told the Nation.

She said the strangers who arrested him identified themselves as police before handcuffing and bundling him in their vehicle.

“I have reported the case to Makupa and Nyali police stations in the hope that I would know the whereabouts of my husband, but in vain. I became more anxious after seven of his colleagues were presented in court a week after their arrest but my husband was not among them,” she said.

Bilal Gaitho, Swaleh Abdulmajid, Swaleh Ali, Khubeid Aboud Rogo, Juma Musa, Mzee Suleiman and Hashim Yasir were charged in a Mombasa court with planning terror attacks on Makupa and Central police stations. They denied the charge.

Ms Lugogo accused the police of misusing new terrorism laws to harass innocent people.

When Mr Mramba was arrested, Coast Criminal Investigation officer Ambrose Munyasia confirmed a police operation which extended to Mr Rogo’s home in Kikambala and arrested Rogo’s son, and his daughter and her husband during a wedding party but did not divulge further information.

Mr Mramba is among several people linked to terrorism who have disappeared in the recent past under unexplained circumstances.

Muhuri executive director Hussein Khalid says he has petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to follow up on Mr Mramba’s case and other missing persons.

“The length of Mr Mramba’s disappearance (almost two months) is not normal even for those detained by the security forces. Although arrested people are not always promptly brought before the courts within 24 hours as required by law, a lapse of seven days is of serious concern,” said Mr Khalid.

Mr Mramba is known to be friends with two high profile terrorist suspects, including Sheikh Rogo and his family. Mr Mramba was once arrested when he attended a case in Nairobi involving Sheikh Rogo and his friend Abubakar Sheriff alias Makaburi where they faced terror charges.

The disappearance follows a troubling trend in the country where people linked to terror suspects, or who are suspects themselves, go missing.

Samir Hashim Khan, a Muslim activist disappeared early April last year and after few days his body was found mutilated by the roadside near Tsavo National Park.

He was last seen with Mohamed Bekhit Kassim, who also is missing. They were reportedly pulled out of a matatu near Nakumatt supermarket in Likoni and abducted by unknown people.

Like Sheikh Rogo, Khan and Kassim had pending court cases in Nairobi and Mombasa over terror charges.

The killing of Sheikh Rogo by unknown assailants last August added to a list of people killed in the war on terror in Kenya.

On October 29, last year, police in Mombasa killed a man identified as Omar Faraj, 44, in his house who they said was among terrorists targeting Mbaraki and other police stations in the coastal town.

The killing sparked criticism with the police accused of using excessive force on “a butcher at Mwembe Tayari”.

Muslim leaders, including the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Dor, said they would ask the government to launch an inquest over Mr Faraj’s killing.

Several terror suspects have disappeared without trace, raising fears they too could have been killed.

Mr Sylvester Opiyo aka Musa Osodo and Mr Jacob Musyoka aka Yaqub Musyoka went missing last May in Molo.

Mr Opiyo’s photograph was published in the local media alongside that of Hussein Nderitu in December 2011, with a note that investigators believed they “have vital information on Al-Shabaab activities in Kenya”.

They presented themselves to the police the following day and were freed after interrogation. Mr Opiyo was later charged with terrorism related offences but has been missing since then.

Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo is expected to address the extrajudicial killings and the disappearance of tens of Kenya linked to terrorism.

In various parts of the Coast region, parents have also raised concern over their sons who reportedly joined the Al-Shabaab terror group to fight the Transitional Federal Government in Somali but have since disappeared.

According to one Sheikh who did not want to be named, some of the youths have sneaked to different countries including Yemen and Syria.