Kenya arrests Somalia-bound ISIS recruits
NAIROBI - Three Kenya nationals are in police custody on suspicion that they were on their way to Puntland, Somalia to join IS-Somalia militants, a case filed in court by the state reveals, in yet another incident that showcases the growing influence of the group within the Horn of Africa region.
Locally known as Daesh in Somalia, the IS has a presence in DR Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, and the Sahel region in West Africa. The group has been trying to expand its territory in the Horn of Africa, choosing Somalia as the right destination, despite the presence of rivals Al-Shabaab.
Those arrested were Ayub Bwanaadi, 32, and Mohammed Bwanaadi, 22 who are brothers as well as Kassim Ahmed, 29. They were arrested in Isiolo County on April 7 aboard a Moyale-bound bus by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit [ATPU], who man the busy highway.
For a while, the three have been on the run after the police issued warrants of arrest against them for crimes committed in their home county of Lamu in coastal Kenya. Police were given 30 days to detain them after presenting them in Kahawa Law Courts on April 11.
During their interrogation, the three said that they traveled from Tanzania through Lungalunga to Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate and were to cross over to Ethiopia before eventually moving to Somalia to join the terror group. In Tanzania, the three were hiding after being linked to the murder of police officers, chiefs, and community policing officials in Lamu.
The three men during their interrogation told police that the plan to join Daesh in Puntland was mooted by Ali Omar Bwanadi who is Ayub and Mohammed’s brother, police believe is currently in Morogoro, Tanzania. He ran away after he was linked to the murder of security officers.
According to the police, the three ran away from Tanzania and opted to go to Puntland after learning that Dar es Salaam had been contacted by Nairobi to help them arrest the criminals. The three men then traveled to Mombasa through Lungalunga with the help of bodaboda riders and boarded a bus to Mombasa town.
Once in Mwembe Tayari, Mombasa they were by the handler whom they told investigators is known to them as Abdi, he then transferred them into a waiting vehicle that was to move them to Eastleigh. Abdi directed them to Eastleigh where they stayed to avoid detectives.
In Ethiopia, authorities say, the three were directed on how to get new identity cards and subsequently, travel to the Puntland state of Somalia. The three men then boarded the Moyale-bound bus before their arrest in Isiolo on April 7.
The Bwanaadi brothers told police that they did not know who Kassim was, but police believe that it is a big coincidence that they all hail from the same village, had been on the same journey, share a criminal history, and had links with Al Shabaab in Boni Forest.
Police records indicate that Kassim was first arrested in 2016 together with Ali Omar Bwanadi, Muhammed Kassim Abdalla, and Mustafa Kheri Shali at the Busia border point while trying to cross over to Uganda on their way to join ISIS in Libya. By the time of their arrest, the four had pending cases in Mombasa.
With the three set to be put on trial tomorrow [Thursday], police insist that they were behind the deaths of several officers and local administrators according to files obtained from the government. Police are working hard to trace their facilitator to Puntland where IS-Somalia militants are based.
IS-Somalia militants are confined to the Goli mountains of Puntland within the Bari region and their strategy to expand has often been thwarted by the rival Al-Shabaab group. The group often carries sporadic attacks along Bosaso, the commercial capital of Puntland state but there are also some traces of the group in the capital Mogadishu.