As she was planning how to deceive police officers tracking a phone associated with her, her husband was busy shooting and killing people at the Dusit D2 Complex in Nairobi.
Violet Wanjiru, aka Violet Kemunto, aka Khadija, the widow of Ali Salim Gichunge — the man believed to have been the Kenyan mastermind of the January 15, 2019 terrorist attack — has been on the run since four days before the attack.
Police and counter-terrorism organisations believe Violet exited Kenya through Mandera on the day her husband and four others were maiming and slaying people at the complex.
The crafty woman allegedly placed her phone in a parcel and addressed it to a non-existent recipient in Garissa, purposely to deceive police officers who were tracking her.
When the police discovered the plot, they instead launched a fine tooth comb in Kisii, where they believed she hailed from.
A month after the attack, the media was awash with information about the arrest of a woman believed to be Violet in Kisii.
Police had arrested a woman — in the company of a Tanzanian national — whose documents were “questionable”.
She was later released after she proved her identity as Risper Nyamoita Ogwori.
A document produced on September 17, 2019, by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Somalia and presented to the United Nations Security Council states that after leaving the Guango estate Muchatha house on January 11, Violet travelled through Wajir and El Wak to Mandera along the B9 highway, arriving in Mandera on the evening of the same day.
SHABAAB SAFE HOUSE
Violet and Salim lived in house number E9. “She remained in Mandera until January 14, and then crossed into Somalia. Throughout this journey, she was aided by Yusuf Ali Adan, a Mandera-based al-Shabaab operative, with whom she communicated on a newly-activated phone line,” says the report.
It said Violet was housed in the border region in a safe house under al-Shabaab control for a number of days before being moved further into al-Shabaab territory and into isolation to observe ‘Iddah’, a period of waiting following the death of a husband.
The reports state that Violet — who was christened ‘the Black Widow’ after the death of her husband — was in Somalia but “her exact whereabouts were unknown”.
The report further states that Violet was married to the cell leader Gichunge in 2016. “Her role was in assisting Gichunge with the management of the safe house,” it states.
The report alludes that the woman was unaware of the suicidal nature of the impending attack, and she believed that Gichunge would later flee to Somalia to join her.
FALSE ID CARD
Mobile phone tower data analysed by the panel showed that other members of the cell stayed at the Guango estate bungalow — where Violet and Gichunge lived for nine months and paid Sh40,000 monthly rent — sporadically in the lead up to the attack, with all of the attackers coming together at the house the night prior.
“Evidence extracted from these devices revealed communications between Ali Salim Gichunge and a cell co-ordinator based in the al-Shabaab ‘capital’ of Jilib, in Middle Juba region.
“Electronic communications also revealed that the co-ordinator in Jilib had arranged for the manufacture of a falsified secondary school identity card for one of the non-Kenyan attackers, Dadaab refugee camp resident Siyat Omar Abdi,” the UN panel stated.
The Dusit attack was hatched mid December 2018 when an unknown attacker of Somali origin travelled from Dadaab to Eastleigh in Nairobi.
Before she left Nairobi, Violet put all their household items on sale for Sh100,000, announcing on the social networking site Facebook that they were planning to “move out of Nairobi this week”.
Sources at the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit said the entire team of attackers met together for the first time on January 14, 2019 and stayed together at the safe house that evening before using Gichunge’s car — a Toyota Ractis — to go to the attack venue at the Dusit, where 21 lives were lost. Violet had already left.
Apart from Gichunge, the other attackers were suicide bomber Mahir Riziki, Siyat Abdi Omar, Osman Gedi Ibrahim and the unidentified Somali attacker.
Details about Violet’s origin, family and siblings are scanty, but after police circulated her pictures and placed a bounty over her head, some Kenyans recognised her as a former journalism student at Masinde Muliro University who graduated in 2014.
Two years after her graduation, she married Gichunge who was born in 1992 in Isiolo. Their marriage happened just a year after Gichunge returned from Somalia.