Terror: What our secret Somali mission uncovered

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By Standard Team

Days after threats were made on the life of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a major expose by The Standard today reveals the potent terror threat on Kenya’s and regional security.

In a daring and bold incursion into what many may consider ‘enemy territory’, our writers came face-to-face with the militia in the failed state of Somalia.

They said their opposition was two-fold: To drive out foreign invading forces from their country, and to exert revenge against those who blew up their ambitions following the disbanding of NGOs, in the war against terror.

And even as The Standard lays bare the scale of their activities and reveals the limitations of the Kenyan security apparatus, Internal Security minister George Saitoti was separately admitting that the country was not safe.

“I am not dreaming because the threat is real and we have been victims in the past. I cannot divulge what we want to do to stop those planning those criminal activities,” Saitoti told The Standard.

The minister — who was speaking only days after the release of Mv Faina, the Ukrainian ship hijacked in the high seas off the coast of Somalia — said Kenya was on a high alert following intelligence reports that terrorists could be plotting attacks.

Muslim leaders, while supporting genuine efforts to combat terrorism, however read a sinister motive in “frequent alerts” of terror.

Said Al-Amin Kimathi, the Executive Director of the Kenya Muslims Forum: “They (Government) will continue fighting for relevance in the counter-terrorism efforts so long as it is a pre-requisite for aid”.

He said Muslims and human rights advocates have learnt to take the terror alerts with a pinch of salt because they are motivated by financial ends.

He, however, added: “We have no problem with the Government if it prosecutes this war in accordance with the law, respect for human rights and without terrorising the innocent”.

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During our two-month investigation, we found out from Al-Shabaab leaders that and discovered that Kenyans in their hundreds were on the recruits list.

And the chairman of the Council of Imams and Council of Kenya (CIPK) South Coast branch, Sheikh Amir Banda, said described the recruitment as unacceptable and a threat to the stability of a sovereign state.

“If the Government has credible evidence… it should move quickly to take action.”

What motivates them? And what is their mission? we asked in interviews with their leaders and some of the Kenyan youths recruited recently.

They said they were bitter after they dropped out of school due to the closure of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that supported their education in Kenya, in what has famously come to be referred to as the “war on terror” prosecuted by the Americans.

And as we witnessed first-hand the porous Kenya-Somali borders, the international community was stepping up anti-piracy activities off Somali’s coastline, which has seen soaring cases of piracy.

The Horn of Africa has been a steady base for small arms that have proliferated in the region, and a source of well-organised militias.

Saitoti’s revelation echoed similar warnings by Washington. “We judge the terrorist threat to US interests in East Africa, primarily from al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic extremists in Somalia and Kenya, will increase in the next year,” Dennis Blair, overseer of US spy agency CIA, was reported to have told the Senate last week.

Both Nairobi and Washington agree that their co-operation on the “war against terror” and that on piracy has earned them many enemies.

Somalia has remained a failed state since 1991, and its latest push for central government appears as problematic after the installation of President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

The former Geography teacher rose to prominence in 2006 in the six-month reign of the Islamic Courts Union, an alliance that temporarily controlled Mogadishu.

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