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How young Kenyans are lured to join Al-Shabaab

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A paltry Sh14,000 lunch allowance split among nine unemployed youth, a pledge to serve in the Somali National Army and a promise of Sh10 million payout. This is all it took a man labelled Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States to convince nine Kenyan youth to join Al-Shabaab.

Ahmad Iman Ali alias Abu Zinira is the founder of Al Hijra, the terror group’s radicalisation wing. He served as the head of Al-Shabaab in Kenya. The recruitment took place in 2008 inside Majengo Mosque in Nairobi.

UNEMPLOYED YOUTH

His target: young unemployed youth, too desperate to shun a job and hard cash pledge. The promises were too enticing, but in the end, they turned out to be lies.

Joe (not his real name) is one of the youth who was talked into joining the terrorist group. He managed to escape and returned to his native home in Nyeri.

Joe spoke to the Nation and this is his story: “It does not take much to convince a Kenyan youth to join Al-Shabaab.

They look for the most desperate ones and promise them the best life. My best friend and I are some of the youth who were easily lured into the terror group.

I had just finished high school, but instead of going back to Nyeri, I opted to live with my best friend’s family in Eastleigh, Nairobi. This was our strategy — to hit the ground running in life; you know, hustle as we wait for results and the possibility of joining university.

GIKOMBA MARKET

“His parents were welcoming and his father actually gave us a single-room house to stay in as we hustled. Edu* and I got our first hustle selling mitumbas [second hand clothes] and slippers with his mum in Gikomba Market.

“Life seemed normal in the beginning as we experienced the many surprises of adulthood. One of the places we would frequent most was Jamia and Majengo mosques. I’m not a Muslim, but I was used to living with them. Even while we were still in school, we (non-Muslims) would sneak out with other Muslim students to go to the mosque on Fridays. For us it was for leisure and the thrill of not having to be in class on Fridays.

One day while we were at Majengo Mosque, some people approached Edu and I and invited us to a meeting. I did not know who they were, but this did not bother me as I assumed they were Edu’s friends.

“At the time the mosque was still under construction, so we held the meeting in an old room on the ground floor. We were nine.

JOB OPENINGS

“One of the men who invited us [to the meeting] told us there were job openings in Somalia — positions in the Somali Army.

“It sounded like hitting the jackpot. They said we would be in the Somali army and when we returned, we would be untouchable.

“At the end of the first meeting, we were given Sh14,000 to share among ourselves. This was a lunch allowance for attending the meeting. When we were invited the second time, the nine of us showed up. Who wouldn’t? That is how they got us to attending more meetings.

“During the meetings that followed, they told us that if we agreed to join the ‘army’, we would each receive Sh10 million as payment. That is how they convinced us that this was the best move for us. Imagine getting Sh10 million … I would live a lavish life with good things and nice cars. But we had to do one thing before we could proceed for training — convert to Islam since none of us was a Muslim. We all agreed and took new names. I got the name Farah. We were promised certificates to show we were Muslims, but we never saw them.

AL-SHABAAB

“At the mosque, we were introduced to someone who would turn out to be a leader of Al-Shabaab in the country. We met Iman, who would come for the Madrasa classes where they taught us Sharia law and other Muslim doctrines.

“At some point, we started pushing to be told where we would go for training since they had told us we were joining an army. After much insistence, the trip to the training camp was planned.

“They told us our destination was El Wak in Mandera. We were put in one of the buses named Moyale Bus. They were still new at the time. We did not carry any clothes or personal belongings.

“I did not even have a national identification card. I was still in the application process and was supposed to travel to Nyeri to get my mother’s particulars. I abandoned that plan and lied to my mother that I had found a job in Mombasa. She even sent me Sh3,000 for emergency.

“We travelled to El Wak and then to a village called Basili, where we met a Mr Farouk. He was with other men who appeared to be of Pakistani origin. From what we were told, they were aid workers who were volunteering to build a mosque in El Wak.

JEISH

“They would take us to some camps built in the bushes, where there were other militants calling themselves Jeish.

“Farouk and the rest of the commanders would sleep in tents, while the Jeish stayed up to guard the camp. Our training started by being shown a lot of propaganda videos of Al-Shabaab missions and talk about Jihad. They would show some of the militants and claim they used to be Kenyan police officers. During the day, they taught us how to use guns. They started by showing us how to operate a pistol. A few days into the training, I started getting scared of the whole idea because what we had been taught at the mosque had turned into something dark. This was no longer the Islam I knew of from my friends.

“I spoke to Edu about it and told him this was a bad idea. But his focus was on the money. Talking him out of it was not going to work, but I had already made up my mind to run away.

“One day when we were asked to help out with some supply errands in El Wak, I sneaked away from the group and boarded a lorry that was transporting animals. From there I hitchhiked all the way to Mombasa but using different routes because I was afraid they would try and set a trap along the way.

HIDING

“When I returned to Nairobi, I stayed in hiding. I wanted to go to a police station and report what had happened, but I was scared. I feared that the officers would see me as a terrorist and kill me. So I opted to write a letter and put it inside the suggestion box at Central Police Station.

“After that I still feared for my safety in Nairobi because I felt that the recruiters would come after me to silence me. That was when I decided to return to Nyeri.

“I do not know what happened to Edu or the rest of the group. Maybe he became a suicide bomber and blew himself up.

“But I know and can attest that the promises they make are false. It is all a lie, but it is enough to lure Kenyan youth.”

[Courtesy Daily Nation]

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He is a very dangerous man! Sonko’s daughter accuses senator of attempting to kill her

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Lamu Senator Anwar Loitiptip and Saumu Mbuvi, daughter of former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, have announced their separation following wrangles and disagreement.

The reports were fuelled by photos and videos of Senator Loitiptip hanging out with a female friend.

Saumu, on Instagram, announced that the two have separated, claiming that she has undergone domestic violence under Loitiptip.

“These are the things he did to me,” wrote Saumu, in one of her photos showing a swollen face and bruised lips.

“He almost killed me. I will forever fight for women to stand for their rights. Never allow a man to be violent to you.”

She also claimed that the senator had neglected their child, leaving Saumu as the primary caregiver.

Loitiptip told Kenyans.co.ke that Saumu shared her father’s traits and was suffering from bipolar disorder, threatening to expose her past to prove his claim.

The two have been dating for months and at one point planned to get married. However, Sonko’s daughter clarified that the two had split before officiating their union.

“Wedding date confirmed,” she captioned a picture of herself and the senator in June 2020.

Her previous relationship with businessman cum politician Ben Gatu also ended after she accused him of being violent.

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US raises alarm over Covid-19 cases surge in Tanzania

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The US government has revealed that there are significant cases of Covid-19 in Tanzania.

This is just a week after it advised its citizens against travelling to the East African country.

“The US Embassy is aware of a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases since January 2021,” the Embassy said.

In a Health alert, the US said the practice of Covid-19 mitigation and prevention measures remains limited.

The Tanzanian government has not released aggregate numbers on Covid-19 cases or deaths since April 2020.

“Healthcare facilities in Tanzania can become quickly overwhelmed in a healthcare crisis. Limited hospital capacity throughout Tanzania could result in life-threatening delays for emergency medical care,” US said.

The Department of State’s travel advisory level for Tanzania is Level 3.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that travellers should avoid all travel to Tanzania.

The Embassy continues to recommend that all individuals take caution in day-to-day activities.

President John Magufuli assured the 58 million inhabitants that they need not worry about observing Covid-19 preventative measures.

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Siwachii wezi! Uhuru vows not to leave the country to thieves in 2022

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President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday made a surprising stop to lecture Nairobi residents after finishing his engagement at the National Cargo Deconsolidation Centre (NCDC-Nairobi).

The Head of State said he was angry at Nairobians for being against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill stating that the report has given Nairobi more constituencies.

“If we have a BBI that says the people of Nairobi will have more constituencies and if it’s bursaries a child in Mathare who today receives Ksh500, how will that child study up to university level,” President Kenyatta said.

“But there is another child who gets Ksh100,000 in Busury per year is that right?… BBI is not for helping Raila or Uhuru it is for you,” he continued.

Uhuru went on to disclose that he has no plans to rule after his term is over and his interest is in finishing the job that Kenyans elected him to do.

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