Kenyan police is currently interrogating a man over his links with Islamist militants al-shabaab. The group, which is attempting to push the East African giant to withdraw troops from war-torn Somalia has intensified assaults along the Somali-boarder region.
The man, being detained by security operatives in the coastal city of Mombasa was arrested after he walked into a church and confessed to his pastor about his dealings with the al-shabaab militants. The pastor handed over the traumatized returnee to authorities.
The incident according to security experts exposes the daunting task Kenya is facing to uproot al-Shabaab which has intensified efforts to expand its campaign through creation of terror cells and units in the country. Shabaab has reportedly found habitation in the coastal region.
Kenyan authorities have since obtained a court order, to detain the man whose identity they are concealing to protect him from social repression. They have said the man has crucial information they need to foil militant operations in the region.
A state prosecution official in the region, Eric Masila was quoted by local media as saying that the man was “cooperating with security officers and is willing to give us valuable information on the operations of the Somali-based terror group.”
“We will check data in his sim cards that we believe has crucial information that can lead to the arrest of more suspects,” Masila said.
Kenya is currently grappling with reintegrating returnees into society amid fears that some come back under pretense to do reconnaissance for Shabaab. Other returnees are believed to have come back covertly for fear of arrest, attack from an angry population and also repression from Shabaab agents who are likely to eliminate them over desertion and betrayal.
Intelligence reports indicate that over at least 140 Al-Shabaab returnees had slipped back into the country by April 2017 following a government amnesty issued in 2015.
Poverty and economic distress and some times the quest for vengeance has forced a number of Kenyans, including women to join the Somali-based group which tied up with al-Qaeda in 2012. Shabaab is also believed to be benefiting from Kenya’s unemployment endemic by recruiting unemployed graduates.
For instance, in the wake of last year’s attack on Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi, the country was shocked to learn that the operation was conducted by terrorist cell that comprised of Kenyan nationals of non-Somali descent, including a suicide bomber from the Kenyan port town of Mombasa.
Security operatives reported that the bomber, who they identified as identified as 25-year-old Mahir Khalid Riziki had been recruited at the famous Musa Mosque in Mombasa, which police had raided in 2014, arresting more than 200 people and seized mobiles and laptops, alongside literature and videos that they said referred to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Kenyan preachers accused of promoting violence.
Analysts say that the raid exposed the al-Shabaab’s evolution and growth from a rag tag militia to a well-organized and facilitated international terror group, whose counter measures must swiftly change.
“The raid on the D2 compound brought together three strands of al-Shabaab’s organizational DNA: its Somali provenance, its ideological affiliation with al-Qa`ida, and its growing cohort of trained, experienced East African fighters,” experts at the counter terrorism center said in a report.
“The successful combination of these traits in a single operation suggests that al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to transcend its Somali origins and become a truly regional organization is becoming a reality, representing a new and dangerous phase in the group’s evolution and the threat that it poses to the region,” the report reads further.
In the latest string of assault, suspected al-Shabaab militant shot dead three teachers in Kenya near the border with Somalia and burned down a police station.
The Kenya police is also detaining arrested three men, believed to be Islamist fighters for attempting to breach security at a British army camp, days after militants assaulted Simba Camp in Lamu, which is used by American and Kenyan forces. They killed three American personnel.
The insurgent group, which wants to oust Somalia’s U.N.-backed government, is now seeking to broaden its regional reach and reaffirm ties with al Qaeda, which it first pledged allegiance to in 2012, analysts said on Monday.
Al Shabaab has been recruiting Kenyans and other East Africans in a bid to launch more attacks beyond Somali borders, said Matt Bryden, the founder of Nairobi-based think-tank Sahan Research.
“We heard chatter three months ago that al Shabaab was planning intensive cross-border operations and had identified commanders to lead those operations,” Bryden said.
Al Shabaab uses the phrase “Jerusalem will never be Judaized” when announcing most of its major attacks for example the Simba base at Lamu, and Dusit attack. In all attacks the statements claims the group was reacting to the U.S. government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “in accordance with the guidelines of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri … in targeting western and Zionist interests worldwide and in support of our Muslim families in Palestine.”