Ideological Battle Brewing in Mombasa Mosques

The Muslim community in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa has been shaken up as a youth movement has taken control of an influential mosque in the city. A police crackdown on alleged radicals has also created tension in the community. As Mohammed Yusuf reports, a battle for religious ideological supremacy is brewing as Kenya continues a crackdown on suspected al-Shabab terrorists in the country.

In early February, Kenyan security forces stormed the Masjid Musa Mosque in Mombasa. They killed three people and arrested more than 120 young people.

Police say that in the raid they recovered an AK-47 rifle, knives, video disks and flags – which bore the symbols of al-Shabab. Authorities have accused clerics at the Musa Mosque of recruiting for the Somali militant group al-Shabab in the rundown neighborhood of Majengo.

Clerics and young Muslims from the mosque deny the accusations and 100 of the 129 people arrested have been released from custody by the courts due to a lack of evidence. However, the remaining 29 suspects will face trial.

Khalid – who will only give his first name — said he escaped being captured by police that day in what he says was an unjustified raid.

He said he goes to the Musa Mosque – even though he doesn’t live nearby – because he likes the sermons. He said it is the only mosque in the area without a political agenda and where young people and young preachers can express themselves freely without being censored by the religious hierarchy.

“Freedom of speech – that’s the difference. Because most of the mosques nowadays are built, we say, they are political mosques; someone is building it for self-benefit or self-gain. Musa Mosque was built and left for the community. Because the committee that was there didn’t want the jihad topic to go on, they were overthrown by the youth,” Khalid noted.

The dispute at Musa Mosque is part of the growing divide in Muslim communities over how far jihad, or holy war, can go and what tactics are acceptable.

Hassan Ole Nadu, the deputy secretary of the General Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, says the split at Musa Mosque reflects the competing ideologies in the Muslim world.

“We have seen for the last few years, a tendency of some of the preaching are aligned to or inclining to certain religious ideology… When you have difference of an opinion with an individual, this ideology goes further and actually calls that person a Kafir [non-believer] or hypocrite,” Nadu said. “I think if we are not careful in the country there might be an element of the new ideology which is informed by the global geopolitics of the ongoing in Muslim world and other parts of the world.”

Local human rights organizations have accused the Kenyan police of using heavy-handed tactics against the Muslim community, including forced disappearances and murder. Police have strongly denied the accusations and say they are defending the nation from attack.

Abubakar Sharif Ahmed, known as Makaburi, is accused of helping to finance al-Shabab and recruiting young men in Mombasa – accusations he denies.

In a telephone interview with VOA from an undisclosed location in Mombasa, Makaburi said the young men at Musa Mosque are victims of a terrorist witch hunt.

“The youths like to come to Musa Mosque because it’s the only mosque in Kenya that speaks the truth, that supports the oppressed. And in fact it’s the only mosque in Kenya where more imams have been killed by the government than any other mosque in Kenya,” Makaburi explained. “So Musa Mosque is not a mosque that is promoting terrorism but it’s being terrorized.”

Khalid said the Musa mosque provides solace to pained young men like him – who have missing family members or love ones killed by unknown gun men. “My dad was taken from there [Musa Mosque]. All my friends are associated with the mosque. You will find that people in the mosque are the people who are close to you. Every Eid [Muslim celebration] they bring things to you, they bring you monthly basics, some are educated by the same mosque so it’s like a joint family in that mosque,” he said.

Late last month, the members of the mosque changed its name to Masjid Shuhada – or Martyrs Mosque. They say the change is to show solidarity with those who have been killed by authorities or are facing terrorism charges in Kenya.


Former al-Shabab Member to Testify Against Alleged Recruiter

Kenya’s anti-terror police have carried out dozens of arrests in the last few weeks, targeting suspects in the coastal city of Mombasa. As Mohammed Yusuf reports, one man allegedly trained by the Somali militant group al-Shabab is ready to testify in court against an accused recruiter.

On October 10, police raided the house of Swaleh Abdallah Said in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city. According to the police, they found a grenade at his place. Said was arraigned in court the following day.

Fifty-one-year-old Jeronimo Lokolonyei Lorinyok, also known as Maalim Yusuf, is a Muslim convert and a preacher.

Yusuf said that Said, using a different name, recruited him and eight other Muslim converts for al-Shabab in 2004, in the coastal town of Lamu. “One man approached us and introduced himself and told us to go with him and preach in Somalia,” he said. “The man’s name was Issa Ahmed Said. Then nine of us left for Somalia. He took us for religious purpose and to preach peace. When we got there it wasn’t about religion and peace.”

U.N. reports have put the number of Kenyan youths recruited for al-Shabab at more than 500.

According to Yusuf, Said had a lot of money. Yusuf said he and the other converts initially thought Said was a good Muslim, but changed their mind when Said told them that there is nothing to preach, there is only jihad, and they have would have to fight for Islamist terror cells in Somalia.

Kenya security forces have charged Said with possession of weapons – a charge he denies. His wife, speaking to local media, said she didn’t know the kind of work her husband was doing, but denied he is a terrorist or involved in terror activities.

Police have asked for more time to continue their investigation.

One human rights activist, who visited Said in jail and also his family, told VOA the suspect had multiple identification documents, with different names from different countries.

Yusuf said the suspect has a Kenyan national identification card and a Tanzanian passport.

He also alleges Said is an al-Shabab member who ranks high in the group when it comes to terror activities.

“He knows very well [about the group]; he is the one who taught me how to use G3 [rifle]. They told us there was no government [in Somalia] and everyone should have a gun. We went to a camp and we took guns, we even know how to use and throw grenades. We were also told and taught to hate non-Muslims,” said Yusuf.

The Muslim preacher said four of his colleagues died in Somalia. He said Said killed one during a disagreement, and killed three others – one by beheading – when they asked for their pay.

After 28 days in Somalia, Yusuf and the other four recruits decided to run away. It took them days to get back to the Kenyan border.

Sheikh Juma Ngao, the chairman of Kenya’s Muslim National Advisory Council, said al-Shabab is taking advantage of the poverty and lack of proper education in Kenya to recruit youths.

“My request to the Kenyan government they should create job opportunities to the youths. If our youths shall get employed I think the number of youths who are interested to go to Somalia shall go down,” said Ngao.

Yusuf said he is ready to help the police with their investigation and to get justice for his colleagues.

Because he fears reprisals from al-Shabab and their sympathizers, Yusuf is in hiding and lives with a Christian family, where for now, he feels safe.

Kenyan Farmers Turn to New Breeds to Withstand Climate Change

Kenyan farmers over the years have often seen their crops wiped out by either floods or drought, causing poverty and soil degradation. Agriculture researchers are now promoting new farming practices and new animal breeds in the hopes that the farmers can withstand natural disasters and the changing climate system. Mohammed Yusuf reports from Nyando, Western Kenya.

Experts Fear No Prosecutions in Kenya Mall Attack

Kenyan security forces have made dozens of arrests and intensified their search for more suspects who they believe were behind the Westgate mall terror attack on September 21. This week the government offered a bounty of up to $6,000 for information leading to the arrest of two men alleged to own a vehicle used during the attack. As Mohammed Yusuf reports, legal experts fear no suspect will be convicted.

In a brief statement to the media Monday, Boniface Mwaniki, head of the police Anti-Terrorism Unit, said his unit will offer a reward to anyone who comes forward and gives information on the owner of a car which was used to transport terrorists, weapons and explosives to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

During the attack at the mall, more than 60 civilians were killed, along with six soldiers and at least five gunmen.

Legal experts in Kenya expect the courts to be busy in the coming days and even months, but doubt that any suspect will be prosecuted and jailed.

Donald Rabala, an advocate at the High Court of Kenya, told VOA it will be hard for police to link suspects to the Westgate attack, since none of those arrested were actually apprehended at the mall.

“If you didn’t find these people at the scene, how then do you link them to this activity that happened at the Westgate?” he asked. “Then that is where you come up with a trail of evidence in terms of mobile communication, e-mail communication, you can even trail money movement from one place to another. Our police forces are not able to get this kind of links more often than not, so you end up with a weak case and a magistrate has no choice but to release these people.

Lawyers acknowledge that getting evidence needed to prove terrorism links and prosecuting it is difficult.

Dozens of arrests made in the last few weeks include people from Western countries.

Multiple sources in the security force said the investigators pick names from the immigration department and check the date that a suspect arrived. In some cases, police look for individuals whose entry visas have expired, but most of these people have crossed to Somalia. If these individuals come back, security forces are left to deal with an immigration case instead of a terror-related case.

However, Rabala said police are partly to blame for not giving enough information to prove the suspect they are sending to court may be a terrorist.

“The first person to blame is the police,” he said. “Take, for example, myself. If am sitting there and am looking at a case and someone presents me a suspect, you tell me this is a terrorist and you don’t give me evidence linking him to the activity that is complained of. Obviously the constitution and the laws of the country enjoin me to release the person because there is no evidence that connects him to the event.”

Neither Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo nor other representatives of the police returned calls for comment.

Al Amin Kimathi, the head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, said investigating terror cases is a difficult task but security forces need to be patient and very careful.

“They are frustrated at times with the law and the legal procedures at times, there is no two ways about this,” he admitted. ” Even where anti-terrorism has predated, counter-terrorism authorities, anti-terrorism authorities mark their patience to ensure that innocent persons are not brought to the net and are not victimized.”

So far only two convicted terrorists: Bwire Oliacha and Abdulmajid Yasin Mohamed – are serving jail terms in Kenya in connection to terror attacks since Kenyan troops crossed to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.

High Court advocate Donald Rabala said with more cases flopping due to lack of proper investigations and evidence, magistrates – instead of releasing suspects – should press the police to bring more evidence to prosecute the suspects.

Kenyan officials warned of ‘Westgate’ attack

Who knew what and when? Those are the questions now being asked in Kenya amid the fallout from the deadly Westgate mall attack in Nairobi on September 21.

A week after the attacks, most fingers pointed at Kenya’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) for it’s failure to detect the brazen plot. But now senior Kenyan officials – including four cabinet ministers and the chief of defence – are in the spotlight after the leak of a damning intelligence file full of specific warnings that apparently reached their desks.

One report in January 2013 warned of a “Mumbai-attack style, where the operatives storm into a buidling with guns and grenades and probably hold hostages”.

Another was equally prescient, even naming the eventual target. “The following suspected Al Shabaab operatives are in Nairobi and are planning to mount suicide attacks on undisclosed date, targeting Westgate Mall and Holy Family Basilica [church],” said a situational report dated September 21, 2012 – exactly one year to the day when the assault was launched.

Kenyan politicians had complained that the NIS failed to issue warnings. But Sunday’s leak of the 32-page intelligence file, obtained by Al Jazeera, suggests five senior officials – including the secretaries of interior, defence, foreign affairs, and treasury, as well as the chief of defence forces – were aware of imminent threats.

The senior officals were briefed on the “noticeable rise in the level of threat” starting on September 13, eight days before the Westgate attack. “Briefs were made to them informing them of increasing threat of terrorism and of plans to launch simultaneous attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa on 13th and 20th September, 2013,” one report said.

A parliamentary committee is expected to hear testimony from senior security and intelligence officials this week.

Calls to the interior minister for comment on the leaked report rang unanswered on Monday.

‘Politicised’ security apparatus

Much remains murky about the mall assault, including the death toll and how many attackers were involved. At least 67 people were confirmed killed and more than 170 others wounded. The Kenyan Red Cross said 39 people caught in the attack remain unaccounted for.

Several Horn of Africa security analysts told Al Jazeera institutional rivalry and unclear command lines within Kenyan security agencies were the likely reasons behind the failure to foil the Westgate strike.

“The problem with the Kenyan intelligence service for the last couple of years is that it has been politicised,” said analyst Abdullahi Halakhe.

“It is not run like a professional outfit. They are dealing with internal issues, neutralising political opponents, rather than protecting the country from internal and external aggression,” Halakhe said.

Ahmed Soliman, a Horn of Africa researcher at the London-based think-tank Chattam House, said being on full alert for an attack at all times is not realistic.

“We have seen with previous terrorist attacks, not only in Nairobi and Kampala [Uganda] but also in cities such as New York and London, it is impossible to remain on high-alert continuously,” Soliman said.

“It will always be possible for an individual or a small group to remain unnoticed and carry out atrocities such as Westgate. I doubt the Kenyan police have the capacity to protect all of Nairobi’s significant targets,” Soliman said.

The Westgate assault may also be a culmination of wrong intelligence on the threat posed by groups such as al-Shabab. Amid continuous air strikes against its training facilities, authorities appeared to down-grade the organisation’s potentcy.

“In intelligence the term is … ‘you have to be right all the time and the terrorist only has to be right once’. This is such a situation. One should not forget that Kenya has done quite a lot in preventing previous and other incidents,” said Anneli Botha, senior researcher of terrorism at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS).


Intelligence had indicated that al-Shabab has been steadily lost ground in Somalia, weakened by military gains by the African Union force (AMISOM) and Somali government troops. But the attack appears to have emboldened the organisation.

Some al-Shabab leaders want their fighters confined to Somalia, while others such as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, have pushed for a global jihad.

“The Westgate attack has strengthened Godane’s hand,” said Halakhe.

Analysts say the al-Shaabab leader may be sending a message to intelligence agencies that reports of infighting and weakness are overblown.

“Godane is saying I am going to show the group is not dead. You took our economical lifeline – that is [the port city of ] Kismayo, but they are telling the Kenyan government we will hit where it hurts – and that was Westgage,” Halakhe said.

“To others who are disenchanted, he is telling them to come back because al-Shabab is the only alternative they have.”

Soliman said a thorough probe will be carried into the attack. “There is a period of mourning and reflection, after which there will be a serious investigation of what took place and measures that can be implemented to prevent such an attack occurring again.”

Halakhe questioned what, if anything, Western intelligence agencies provided to Kenyan authorties. The leaked NIS file said that Israel’s Embassy in Nairobi had warned of “possible terrorist attacks on their citizens” during Jewish holidays from September 4-28, though it cited “Iran and the Hezbollah” as the likely perpetrators.

“If Kenyan intelligence slept on the job where were the Western intelligence services, because they are more sophisticated and more advanced compared to Kenya. Where were they?” asked Halakhe.

Quick to judge

Changes within Kenya’s security appartus will likely be part of the fallout from the Westgate attack, Halakhe said.

“I think the anger and disaffection towards the intelligence failure will lead to some changes within the intelligence unit. There will be some movement, some will be sacked, and some will be moved around,” he said.

Others said a full investigation was needed before laying any blame. Botha said the public should not be too quick to judge, adding Kenya’s involvement in Somalia was already a red flag that attacks back home were a reality.

“When Kenya sent its troops to Somalia and al-Shabab issued threat after threat, we expected a terror attack to happen. Before this there were [also] some grenade attacks in some cities,” Botha said.

The government, meanwhile, has defended its handling of the situation. Kenya’s Interior Ministry Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo has said the security forces should not be blamed for not be alert enough.

“The security forces have prevented many terror attacks in the recent past. The Westgate killings are ‘unfortunate’ since it was among the few instances in which the killers had outsmarted government agencies,” he said.

Botha, a former trainer of South African police, agreed. “One should not be harsh to Kenyan security officials … Other Western countries like America, Britain face these sort of attacks. Unfortunately these sort of attacks happen to the best of countries,” Botha said.

Kenyan police official Jonathan Kosgei defended the handling of the siege by outgunned police officers.

“In all honesty, this was the first time Kenya has witnessed such an audacious terrorist attack on a mall using guns,” Kosgei said. “We knew of bombs, [but] this new style was hard to predict. However, the security forces did their best to contain the situation in the prevailing disadvantaged circumstances.”

A Kenyan lawmaker, meanwhile, has also publicly stated that warnings of an attack on Nairobi landmarks were given to security officials.

Senator Mike Sonko, whose constituency includes Westgate Mall, said two women who apparently knew of the plot approached him months before the assault.

“They mentioned Westgate Mall, Village Market, Parliament and the Kenyatta International Conference Centre as their targets,” Sonko said.

The women were taken to authorities and provided statements, but the information was not acted upon, said Sonko.

“I know I will shock many people here. These people have remained in this area planning the attack for about three months, and despite the investigators getting that information, they could not quell the attack,” he said.

Treating Kenya’s emotionally scarred

Cecilia Langat completed the last of her harrowing day’s work at the makeshift trauma counseling centre set up for shell-shocked victims of the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi.

Since the start of her busy shift Wednesday – the first day of a three-day national mourning period for the victims of the deadly siege – Langat reflected on the pain expressed by people who sought out counseling services.

Many victims suffered severe emotional trauma from their terrifying ordeal, after gunmen randomly sprayed civilians with automatic weapon fire and lobbed hand grenades into fleeing crowds. The mall assault killed more than 70 people, but the death toll could go up significantly as authorities clear the burned out shopping centre.

As soldiers battled the al-Shabab attackers at the upscale Westgate Mall, a unit of counselors engaged the mental anguish of those who managed to escape with their lives. Staff from the Kenya Red Cross and the Kenya Psychological Association were based at a makeshift location at Uhuru Park, not far from the scene of the urban assault.

“We have cases of people coming for counseling who witnessed very horrific things in the mall,” said psychologist Dr Oscar Githua. “People who saw others shot – their friends, relatives and loved ones – during the siege. If you see them they do not have physical wounds, but they have deep psychological wounds.”

Githua said there were a range of different reactions from victims of the attack.

“We have seen people who have sleepless nights, others had difficulties talking, others suffered loss of memory and are very angry and agitated,” he said.

Psychologist Munira Ahmed has treated patients for the past 30 years. She also told Al Jazeera she witnessed Westgate victims coping with their ordeal in a variety of ways.

“In my examination, I have seen people whose loved ones were trapped or missing,” Ahmed said. “There are those who feel angry and blame themselves for not doing enough to protect their loved ones. There are those who ask ‘why did that happen to them, why not another person?’”

Things from the past

In their examinations, several mental health workers also discovered that many mall siege victims were also suffering psychologically from past events, such as the deadly post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007-08.

Langat relayed the story of a man who sought counseling services after suffering a breakdown while retrieving bodies from Westgate’s carnage. Because of privacy concerns, he’ll be described as David, 43, for this story.

David lost his 19-year-old son during Kenya’s post-election violence six years ago, in which as many as 1,400 people were killed. A volunteer with the Kenya Red Cross Society – which did most of the rescue and body retrievals from the mall – he suffered a relapse after pulling the body of a 19-year old victim of gunshot wounds out of Westgate. The teenager bore a stunning resemblance to his dead son, David had said.

He broke down after remembering what had happened to his son years ago, a clear indication his emotional scars had yet to heal, said Langat.

Several counselors told Al Jazeera those who sought their services suffered mental trauma related to recurrent violence and insecurity in Kenya.

“The country is in a lot of pain starting from 2008 post-election violence, tribal clashes in some parts of the country, insecurity,” Githua said. “These things haven’t been addressed, and in the process of counseling people affected with the mall attack, we found ourselves addressing things of the past.”

Learning to cope

Ahmed said attacks such as the Westgate siege often lead people to engage in harmful behavior to cope with their experiences. She recommended that victims seek out support and professional treatment early.

“You will find some people taking pills, other drinking alcohol so that the pain can go away. That will help for a short term, but the trauma will haunt you. It is better one goes for counseling,” she said.

Ahmed said she counseled at least 10 victims of the Westgate assault over two days at her private clinic.

“There are those who get traumatised immediately after witnessing a horrific accident or attack. But there are those who feel the pain much later,” she said.

One female victim, for example, didn’t begin to feel the emotional repercussions for three days after she managed to escape the al-Shabab assault. “The case with the lady I examined, she felt the psychological pain the third night after the attack,” said Ahmed.

Victims stuck with painful memories for more than a month are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the health professionals said.

Marysnayder Kamau, 21, is a member of local charity group Hakuna Kulia (No Cry), which provides assistance to Nairobi’s impoverished neighbourhoods. She volunteered to help victims anyway she could.

“It makes you feel useful,” said Kamau. “During my three days at the park, I learnt first aid and blood handling. This will make me useful in future emergencies.”

At the end of their eight-hour shift, several counselors gathered outside the makeshift clinic in Uhuru Park and shared their experiences after treating hundreds of traumatised Kenyans.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who also lost relatives in the attack, praised those Kenyans who stepped forward to help victims through their ordeal.

“Amid the horror and confusion of the past few days, you have found it in yourselves to be incredibly strong and generous,” the president said.

“I thank the doctors, nurses, counselors and other volunteers who thought nothing of their comforts and personal engagements when called upon to be their brother’s keepers.”

Somalis in Kenya fear revenge attacks

Omar Abdirahman admits his moods have been swinging from bad to worse. The 28-year-old lives in fear for his life, but also says his more affluent friends have it worse than he.

“Since I heard about this tragic incident, I have felt really bad,” he said. “You cannot be in any good moods when such tragic incidences involving such loss of lives, property and lapse of security happen.”

Abdirahman, is a university student and a frequent patron at upmarket malls including Westgate Shopping Centre, the retail paradise in Nairobi’s well-to-do Westlands neighbourhood. He was chatting with friends on Saturday in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood of Eastleigh, here in the Kenyan capital, when news emerged of what was thought to be a regular daylight robbery.

Since it became clear that the al-Qaeda-linked Somali group, al-Shebab, was behind the attack, things have been very different for him and most of his friends.

“The Somali people I have spoken to fear going into town or any crowded places because there may be a terrorist strike,” he said. “Most of my Somali friends, the professionals working for organisations, and businesspeople, fear they may be trapped in any xenophobic attacks.”

The blame game begins

Three days into what has turned out to be Kenya’s worst terrorist attack since the bombing of the US embassy in 1998, Abdirahman believes life is set to take a permanent shift for most Somalis residing in Kenya.

Security analysts do not yet agree on what should constitute a consistent direction of assault by Kenya to identify and effectively deal with recurring threats – but many believe profiling almost every citizen would be one key step to prevent future attacks.

“Somalis have been blamed for any attacks involving grenades and gunfire that have ever taken place even if it was otherwise,” said Abdirahman. “That the al-Shabab Islamists have claimed responsibility for this attack has changed a lot of things.”

Mohamed Shahid, a 32-year-old Kenyan-Somali, lives in Westlands, the middle-class neighbourhood rarely touched by the frequent security operations that plague Eastleigh, on the other side of the capital.

“Some of my friends and most Somalis fear they could be executed [in retaliation],” he said. “So many have not gone to work today, because they fear entering matatus [minibuses].”

Recruiting grounds

There has also been a sense of panic in Majengo district, a few kilometres from infamous Eastleigh.

“There is fear here in Majengo, since this is place will also be the target of police,” said Ali Edachi, a resident of the impoverished urban neighbourhood.

The UN monitoring group for Somalia and Eritrea in its yearly report mentioned Majengo as the most notorious recruitment ground for al-Shabab fighters, with an estimated 500 Kenyan youth drafted into the ranks to fight alongside the group in Somalia.

Although there is no curfew in place, the people in this neighbourhood know the drill. Everyone here avoids streets after dark. Edachi says they have a good reason for their caution.

“We know this is one of the places to be targeted after Somali neighbourhoods, because of our youths’ involvement with the terror group al-Shabab activities in and out the country.” Edachi said.

‘Philosophy of cowards’

President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose nephew died in the Westgate attack, made some bold statements. “We have fought for the freedom to live a life we chose,” he told Kenyans. “We have fought courageously to defeat terrorism. Terrorism is the philosophy of the cowards.”

The attack against Westgate was an attack against western lifestyles, said the president.

Shahid’s first thought the Westgate attack was merely a violent robbery. His thoughts turned to his loved ones – thinking any of them could have been caught up in the shooting.

“It later turned out to be a terror attack,” he said. “I said to myself: ‘Not again. They [al-Shabab] did it again.’ I was worried about the people in the mall. It is a big place, and any of my family members, relatives and friends could be there shopping.”

The rescue operation involved as many as 1,000 people being evacuated from the shopping centre. At least 62 people were shot dead by the armed gang – who reportedly first attacked the mall using grenades and automatic rifles.

Condemnation and fear

Religious leaders have condemned the attacks. But there is a feeling that Muslims maybe targeted in reaction to reports that the gunmen specifically targeted non-Muslims, letting some adherants of Islam walk free.

“We know and its obvious Muslims are living in fear after the shopping mall attack,” said Adan Wachu, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims.

“We want the criminals who have killed and targeted innocent people to be brought to justice. They must face the full force of the law. We do not want security officers to target our people discriminatively – but we support any security officers who want to carry out their operation and interrogate suspects…

“We do not want them to target youths in the streets, malls and public transport vehicles. They should be very careful with how they handle this situation.”


The Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) were already tracking down several people they suspect to have been involved in the Westgate siege.

Mombasa resident Thabit Mukhtar Thabit said his 19-year-old nephew was arrested on his way home to the port city on Sunday, after attending a family wedding with his mother.

According to Thabit, ATPU agents stopped the young man’s bus along Nairobi-Mombasa highway at Machakos Junction, 50km outside of the Kenyan capital.

“The officers identified themselves and said they were from ATPU,” he said. “They said they were going with her son. The mother went back to Nairobi. She is still searching for her son, she has gone to all police posts in the city, but the son is nowhere to be seen.

“As a parent, I am very concerned. I don’t know why these police officers are torturing my sister by taking away her son. That is very sad and that is not how to do things and get the culprits. There is no need to harass innocent Muslims as [police] carry out their duties.”


Wachu, of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, said his organisation would work with leaders from other religions.

“We will give security forces any help they may need from our side,” he said. “But we hope any investigation will be done in a accordance to the law.”

Most Somalis living in Nairobi, having fled their homes in Somalia after decades of instability, violence and a collapsed state, fear both the police and public lynch mobs. Many fear the police will start targeting them with arbitrary arrests. They also fear civilian Kenyans may target them.

“I am concerned and I am controlling my movement,” said Abdirahman. “The attack can come from the same group – or someone else – you are not sure.

“I fear going out,” he told Al Jazeera. “The social media sentiment has changed against the Somalis. They are saying the Somalis must go home. There are places you fear to visit because they may attack you, saying: ‘Your people have done this.”