Al Shabaab torment recruits’ families

Al Shabaab has resorted to extorting money from families of their fighters, according to latest intelligence reports. The relatives of militia have confessed that they are being blackmailed to run errands and give financial support to the terror group for fear that their kin may be killed if they don’t. The most affected are relatives of fighters injured in fighting between the terror group and African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops based in Somalia Amina Ahmed, a relative of a terror suspect from Mokowe in Mombasa, narrated to security agents how they have become unwitting victims of a complex fight between the militants and security forces. Other relatives who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed the intricate and harrowing accounts of what they have undergone either as victims of terrorism or targets for harassment by Al Shabaab. Mwanahamadi (not her real name) from Kiunga only learnt about her son’s involvement in the terror group after he was injured during one of the many raids on Al Shabaab camps by Amisom. Traumatic experience

Although she had suspected that her son, who had earlier disappeared without notice, could have been recruited into the Al-Qaida-linked militant group, news that he was injured was devastating. Mwanahamadi had not reported her son’s disappearance to the police or area chief. She only found out about her son’s injuries after some Al Shabaab members approached her at her home, and asked her to present herself in a different location in Mombasa where she was informed of her son’s injury during an attack on their camp. “When they mentioned my son’s injured condition, I willingly went to the place. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a traumatic experience,” she recalls. The militants asked Mwanahamadi for money to buy medical supplies and food for her son. The distraught mother gave them the only Sh200 she had, thinking they would allow her to go see her son. “I was put in a difficult position because Al-Shabaab still had my injured son and kept threatening me that if I did not give them money, they would kill him. In any case, they said, he was useless to them because of the injuries,” she said. Mwanahamadi is now deeply entangled in Al Shabaab’s affairs, though not as a fighter or suicide bomber, but as a victim of continuous harassment. Despite constantly giving them whatever little money she has, Mwanahamadi has found herself running dangerous errands for the terror network. She is occasionally given packages to deliver or asked to buy medical supplies from shops the militants cannot go. Among the supplies she has had to buy are sanitary towels, indicating there are women in the Al Shabaab ranks. Mwanahamadi was reluctant to approach the police. She sought help from local human rights groups who only paraded her in front of potential donors.

The heartbroken woman says she is losing hope of ever see ing her son. Sexual favours Mwanahamadi represents a growing number of women forced by circumstances to cooperate with Al Shabaab because their husbands, sons or brothers have joined the group as combatants. Security agents at the Coast believe such women are being forced to run errands including spying and smuggling supplies and weapons into Al Shabaab bases. Some might also have been forced to offer sexual favours to be allowed to talk to their kin.
Source: The Standard
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