Al-Shabaab Abducting Children From Central Somalia

Al-Shabaab in recent weeks has kidnapped hundreds of children from the militant-controlled town of El Bur in Galgadud, residents say, expressing fear that the al-Qaeda-affiliated group is forcibly recruiting them as child soldiers.

Since early May, more than 350 children under the age of 16 have been taken from Qur’an schools or while playing in the streets of El Bur and surrounding areas, said town elder Jama Hassan, 54.

“It is something that has terrified all of us,” Hassan told Sabahi. “If al-Shabaab has become weak it should not use children who do not know how to use arms to shore up its strength.”

Amid the wave of abductions, teachers and students have fled at least 18 Qur’an schools in the area due to al-Shabaab’s reputation for recruiting children, Hassan said, calling on the federal government to intervene.

“The government is responsible for the public and has to come up with a plan to protect citizens who are suffering so they can have peace,” he said.

Al-Shabaab is known for forcing children into its ranks of armed fighters. In January 2012, the Somali Transitional Federal Government and human rights groups reported that al-Shabaab was recruiting child soldiers systematically and by force.

According to a May 15th report to the United Nations Security Council from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, al-Shabaab perpetrated 1,789 cases of child recruitment in 2012, while the Somali National Army was responsible for 179 similar cases.

In some cases, child soldiers escaped al-Shabaab to join Somali government forces. The children were reportedly recruited from camps for displaced people, schools and villages, and al-Shabaab coerced some teachers to participate in enlisting students, according to the UN report.

A mother’s nightmare

El Bur resident Amina Yahye, 39, told Sabahi that al-Shabaab took her 14-year-old son, Hassan Ali, after he left his Qur’an school on May 11th and his whereabouts have since been unknown.

“I was desperately worried and was looking for my son for two days, when I received a call from an al-Shabaab man who told me, ‘Your son is well and he is working for Islam. Whatever knowledge you wanted for him, we will teach him, do not worry,’” she said.

The caller refused to let her speak to her son, she said, adding that the man from al-Shabaab said Hassan was receiving religious instruction on jihad and the hatred of infidels.

“When I cried to the man, he told me ‘God willing, you will speak to your son’, and he hung up on me,” she said. “The phone was turned off when I called the number back. I still do not know where my son is and would dearly love to speak to him even once so I can know for sure if he is alive.”

Maryam Maow, 38, said she fled El Bur on June 1st and took her four children with her to Dhusamareb out of fear that they might also be kidnapped.

“It is astonishing that al-Shabaab espouses Islamic principles, yet they use innocent young children as wood to fuel their fire,” she told Sabahi.

Al-Shabaab intimidates parents in El Bur if they refuse to allow their children to join the militant group’s ranks as fighters, Maow said.

“Some parents have prohibited their children from playing outside of the house because al-Shabaab threatens to kill those who do not join them,” she said.

Parents holding their children’s hands as they flee from al-Shabaab’s mandatory recruitment are a common sight now at bus stops in the El Bur area.

“We are seeing many women who are escaping with their children to avoid al-Shabaab kidnappings,” said Hafsa Rashid, an independent journalist based in El Bur.

“Countless children have been kidnapped since May and no one spoke against this heart-wrenching problem,” she said, adding that if the recruitment is not stopped those same children will return as al-Shabaab fighters to destroy their own communities.

Source: KRMagazine

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State leaders call for a united front against Al Shabaab

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State leaders L-R: Mohamed Ware (HirShabelle) Sharif Adan (South-West) Ahmed Madobe (Jubbaland) and Abdiweli Gaas (Puntland) address the media Oct 31, 2017 in Mogadishu

State leaders have called for unity and one voice to defeat extremist groups in the country noting political disputes and differences weighed against attempts to stabilize the country.

The leaders who are meeting in Mogadishu with President Farmaajo said the war against Al-Shabaab can only be won if Somalis put their minds and resources towards eliminating extremist group.

Puntland leader Abdiweli Gaas said time for conveying condolences and waiting for another attack was over. “Many Somalis been killed by the enemy and sending is a condolence is a normal thing but the best thing is to reply with an action of what happened,” said Gaas.

Gaas stated Al-Shabaab managed to propagate its seductive ideology across the land yet ‘they are scattered in groups of five people in bush. “We must foster an opposite ideology. Where are our Sheikhs and Islamic groups like Islah, Allu-Sheikh and the rest? Why are they not propagating the right religion? Where are our traditional leaders,” charged Gaas.

On his part, Galmudug leader Ahmed Haaf called for an end to political squabbling in the country and focus on uniting the people in stabilising the country. “Every Somali leader must bury the hatchet and stand for the defense of the country. If we don’t come up with a united front, I don’t think we will survive for long,” said Haaf.

Haaf called for forgiveness to save the country. “Somalis stand up for the country. Somalia is going down the cliff. Let us forgive each other; let us unite today.”

South West leader Sharif Sheikh Adan said it was unfortunate leaders had to use choppers every time they have to travel from one part of the country to another because the land was not safe. “We seem to control the airspace as extremists control the land. We fly but not use the roads because the land is not safe. We must redeem our land as well,” said Adan.

Jubbaland’s Ahmed Madobe said Somalis must wrest control of their country and take the war to Al-Shabaab. “We are fighting with men who claim a religious cause. Let us fight them since they took the wrong ideology.”

Source: Goobjoog News

Jubbaland President calls for an all-out offensive against Al Shabaab

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The President of Somalia’s southern semi-autonomous region of Jubbaland, Ahmed Mohamed Islam alias (Ahmed Madoobe) has called for an all-out offensive against Al Shabaab militants.

President Madoobe made the announcement at the consultative forum in Mogadishu, which brought together heads of Federal member states and the leaders of the Somali government.

Jubbaland President has criticized the mourning for the victims of the latest attacks in Mogadishu, including Oct 14 truck bombing in Km5 junction, which claimed the lives of more than 377 people.

The leaders held a moment of silence for the victims of Mogadishu attacks at the opening of their meeting kicked off Monday in the heavily guarded Presidential Palace, the Villa Somalia in the capital.

“Holding a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings in Mogadishu is Un-Islamic and will encourage the extremists to double their attacks in the country, so it should be replaced with action,” said Jubbaland President.

Ahmed Madoobe has urged Somali leaders to come out with a new strategy and unity for the fight against Al Shabaab.

Source: Shabelle News

Man jailed in Frankfurt for fighting with Somali Islamists

A Frankfurt court sentenced a Somali-born German national to two years and ten months in jail on Friday, for joining the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab group and fighting alongside the Islamists in his native country.

The suspect, identified only as 29-year-old Abshir A, was found guilty of membership of a foreign terrorist group.

The court said the accused, who was born in Mogadishu, left Germany for Somalia in 2012 after becoming radicalized and was active for the militant group until early 2014.

He spent around four months undergoing combat training upon arrival, during which time Shabaab militia taught him how to handle weapons and employ guerrilla tactics, according to a court statement.

The accused was then sent to a Shabaab base but left “shortly afterwards because of health problems”, it added.

He remained in Somalia however, and only returned last year.

He was arrested upon his return at Frankfurt airport in July 2016.

The accused denied taking part in any fighting in Somalia, where the Shabaab are seeking to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government.

The group has also carried out deadly attacks elsewhere in East Africa.

German courts have jailed a number of returning jihadists for their membership in foreign terror groups.

Five men were sentenced to prison terms of up to five years in 2016 for having joined the Shabaab in Somalia.

In another case last year, a court jailed three young German men for up to four-and-a-half years for having joined extremist fighters in Syria in 2013.

Source: The Local de

Somali street kids recruited into Al-Shabaab

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VULNERABLE Somali street children are falling prey to terrorist groups who forcibly recruit them entice them into their ranks using money.
The Islamic militant Al-Shabaab has emerged as behind most of the recruitments.
Muktar Ali Issak, Chairman of the Disabled Persons in the southern Bay region, said 32 children had been recruited around markets where they mostly beg.

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“These street children you see will be recruited easily. They will be enticed with money,” he said at an event to mark the Day of the African Child.
The event was held in Baidoa this past weekend.
Speaking during the celebrations, South West Minister of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, Hassan Hussein Elay, said the administration would take every step possible to stop violence against children, including their recruitment as child soldiers.
“As a ministry, we are ready to prevent any violence against children like child soldiers. It is part of the government policy not to recruit a child below 20 years of age.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Child Protection Unit raised concern at the children held in Al-Shabaab detention centres.
Such centres are among places that cannot be accessed by either the government or NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
The Al-Shabaab, which has carried out attacks in neighbouring Kenya to the southwest, is among some insecurity challenges Somalia has battled for more than two decades.
The East African country has also suffered sporadic hunger and disease outbreaks.
Elected in Ferbuary, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, has assured security would be the top priority for his administration.

Source: CAJ News

Museveni ready to send 5,000 troops to Somalia

President Museveni has told United States officials that Uganda is ready to deploy 5,000 additional troops to bolster military operations of the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) against the resurgent al-Shabaab insurgents.
Sources familiar with the discussions told Daily Monitor that Gen Museveni announced the offer in a meeting with Mr Donald Yamamoto, the acting US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, in New York last month.

The President, however, told his American hosts that Uganda would only send more troops to Somalia if the international community commits more predictable funding and donates equipment, force enablers and multipliers such as attack helicopters.

Uganda, with more than 6,000 troops in Somalia, is the largest contributor to the 10-year-old AU-led mission. The operation has lately been threatened by reduced funding, non-payment and declining morale of the combat soldiers and defections to al-Shabaab of Somali troops, already too weak to hold liberated territories.
In the New York lunch meeting, which happened on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Yamamoto offered no explicit response to President Museveni’s offer, according to one diplomat.
He, however, praised Mr Museveni as a long-serving experienced leader whose “strategic ideas” the United States values and will consider.

Gen Museveni had reasoned that increasing the number of troops in Somalia was necessary for an all-out offensive on the al-Shabaab instead of the current fractional approach where liberated areas are quickly recaptured by the insurgents when foreign forces move to new forward operational bases.
“The President said he can deploy 5,000 more soldiers to finish the job on the condition that they are given equipment and force multipliers,” a source familiar with the discussion said. “He said Amisom must go to the heart of the al-Shabaab and destroy them from there to finish the job.”
This latest revelation contrasts with the government’s announced plan to reduce the UPDF presence in Somalia effective next year.

A senior security official told Daily Monitor that there was disquiet among troops at the battlefront that withdrawing their colleagues would render the few left behind more vulnerable.

The war planners are also troubled that if one of the Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) marches out its troops, it could spark panic and a stampede by others to leave, plunging Somalia back into firm al-Shabaab grip.
These concerns have gained urgency in the past few days after the October 14 bomb blast on KM4 Street in the capital Mogadishu, the worst terror attack in the country, that killed 358 people and injured hundreds more.

Whereas civilians responded with demonstrations against al-Shabaab, Somali government officials, international actors and Amisom decision-makers began investigating whether the attack was a result of intelligence failure, collusion, evidence of new terrorist actors on the scene or the beginning of the insurgents’ renewed and more aggressive comeback.
Because the explosives used and the scale of destruction in the latest attack was beyond anything seen there before, and the capability of al-Shabaab, one senior security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said extremists displaced from the Middle East may have infiltrated the Horn of Africa.
This deteriorating security situation coupled with suspicions of external involvement prompted the Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi to fly to Kampala for emergency talks with President Museveni.

The two leaders met on Sunday at State House Nakasero in Kampala. President Museveni sent away ministers from the meeting and a photo that State House released afterwards captured senior military, intelligence and Defence ministry officials in attendance.
One source suggested that the exclusion of politicians means the Ugandan leader was likely weighing a military, rather than diplomatic, solution to the Somalia crisis.

The sensitivity of the discussion and the need to withhold rather than publicly share the information was manifest in a State House press statement. “President Museveni and his Somali counterpart, Mohammed Abdullahi, have held bilateral talks on matters of mutual interest affecting both countries,” the statement read in part, offering no detail.
Our investigations show that the discussion in Kampala on the Somalia meltdown was premised on decisions reached in meetings more than a month ago between African leaders and US President Trump on the one hand, and on the other, among leaders of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs).
President Museveni and leaders of Ivory Coast, Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Namibia attended the meeting with President Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Meeting with Trump
Ethiopia, Somalia’s neighbour, which in October 2016 withdrew its troops that could not be re-hatted under Amisom, citing lack of financing, was invited but sent no representative.
However, Ethiopia maintained there about 4,500 troops that Amisom absorbed.

In the New York meeting, President Museveni praised President Trump as a fresh breath in American politics because he does not lecture African leaders on homosexuality, and instead focuses on practical peace and security challenges and defeating terrorism.
The African leaders raised concern over US government’s planned funding cut to the UN and implored Trump’s administration not to touch the budget of the world body’s peace-keeping operations.

They also proposed that instead of Amisom costs being met through a UN Trust, it should get funding directly from the UN budget like is the case for other peacekeeping operations. Washington’s specific response is still pending.
“The United States is proud to work with you to eradicate terrorist safe havens,” Reuters quoted Mr Trump having told the African leaders, adding: “And a number of you have told me … that we’ve been doing a very good job over the last six or seven months in particular.”

Top US diplomat flies in
This week, Mr Trump deployed Ms Nikki Haley, the US permanent representative to the UN, to Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to assess firsthand the insecurity hotspots and the work of UN peacekeepers on the continent.
She, however, will not visit Uganda that African leaders assigned as spokesperson and coordinator on Amisom issues with the international community.

President Museveni chaired the September 21, 2017 meeting in New York at the Uganda House, adjacent to the UN headquarters, which gave him and Uganda a lead role.
“The meeting was successful and they have given Uganda the mandate to coordinate Troop Contributing Countries,” said Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s permanent representative to the UN.
“I will be working with my colleague diplomats at the UN missions to implement the mandate,” he added.

The meeting was attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, his Somali counterpart Hassan Ali Khayre, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohamed, her Djiboutian and Burundian counterparts Mohamed Ali Youssef and Alain-Aime Nyamitwe, respectively. African Union Peace and Security Commission official Smail Chergui was also present.
They discussed Somalia’s security situation, negative influence of some Middle East actors to undermine the Mogadishu government through direct deals with provincial governors and leaders.
In a communiqué after the summit, they “called on external countries to refrain from disruptive interference into Somalia’s internal affairs.”

They asked the UN to clarify its position on funding and equipment request. This response, highly-placed sources say, will inform next month’s planned TCC meeting and whether or not they will pull their troops out of Somalia altogether.
Even when final decisions on many critical issues remain outstanding, America’s top diplomat for Africa has said they see the continent as a strategic convergence point for the world.

Appearing before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 11, 2017, Mr Yamamoto underlined Africa’s “effective responses to global terrorist threats” and highlighted advancing peace and security; countering the scourge of terrorism; promoting democracy, human rights and good governance; and, increasing economic growth and investment as “strategic priorities” undergirding Washington’s evolving partnership with the continent.
Those priority areas all find expression in Somali where competition for business and influence have politicised the country’s fragile security. President Abdullahi’s new government, eager to disprove critics and skeptics, wants to show it can assert territorial authority.
The government, highly placed officials said, has been pushing Ugandan and Burundian troops to surrender key locations, among them the Mogadishu stadium, to its forces.

Already, the Burundian troops have withdrawn from the Somalia National University campus in Dharkenley district, west of Mogadishu. The troops had camped at the university for 10 years, but have now relocated to Jowhar.
The UPDF is leaving the stadium which it captured in 2011 in one of its fiercest battles before pushing the al-Shabaab out of the capital.

According to sources, the withdrawal of Ugandan soldiers from the stadium is likely to expose UPDF soldiers stationed at Parliament to the enemy.
In Kampala, Brig Richard Karemire, Uganda’s defence and army spokesperson, said: “The stadium is needed by [Somali] government to have it rehabilitated. They have been communicating to us for some time.”
He, however, allayed fears that vacating the stadium would endanger Ugandan soldiers at the Parliament.

“No, it wouldn’t expose them. We shall go to another place that gives us physical advantage to continue with our deployment,” Brig Karemire said. UPDF guards key government installations like Parliament, presidential palace, seaport and airport.

Challenges

Logistical blues: Outside Mogadishu, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Amisom to go on the offensive for fear of outstretching troops amid lack of fighting vehicles and frustrating bureaucracy.
Resurgent enemy: Thin troop presence on the ground is counter-productive, and by some accounts, exposed UPDF to deadly attacks in Janaale in 2015 and in Lower Shabelle, where 12 soldiers were recently killed. These ambushes prompted Amisom to withdraw from some areas to consolidate its defensive positions. Al-Shabaab, unfortunately, took control of the towns. A similar thing happened on August 4 when AU troops vacated Lego. The al-Shabaab took over the base. There is also delayed payments for soldiers, for instance those deployed in Mogadishu early this year, have not been paid.
Weak Somali army: With limited capacity of troops, it’s increasingly becoming difficult to augment Somali National Army. On the August 31, the Somali army and AU troops captured Barire town. After the capture, SNA was left in charge of the base, but days after al-Shabaab attacked and recaptured the town and took a big cache of weapons.

Source: Daily Monitor

I am sorry! I was duped to join Al Shabaab

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My name is Omar Gitonga Kamau. I am Muslim convert and was born 28 years ago as Timothy Gitonga Kamau in Witeithie area, Kiambu County. My parents relocated to Majengo Nairobi when I was 5 years old.

I joined a local Government primary school in the area in 1995 where I studied and attained 252 marks out of 500 and joined a nearby secondary school. I completed my O-level exams in 2006 and attained a mean aggregate of C+ (Plus).

Though I had attained a university minimum entry grade, my parents were unable to support me join a technical college to pursue a Diploma course in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Indeed, my dreams were completely shuttered.

I started to hustle in the nearby electronic shops and sometimes would meet some childhood friends and former classmates who were working in town. My former classmates would tease me of my secondary grades that I scored and they would tell me I will work for them because they were successful even though they failed in the national exams. They would often say;

Buda! Sisi tulidunda exam. Wewe ulipass na uko hapa ukituomba works? Chukua bucket uoshe hapa nje. Hatutaki ma-chopi hapa!  

The irony was too much handle. I became so stressed and swore I would do anything to make ends meet. As fate would have it, one day, I met a Muslim guy named Abdiaziz Mohamed Mohamud better known as Aziz who was working in Masjid Riyadha Mosque in Majengo. Aziz was a friendly and generous person offered to help me get a job on condition that I converted to Islam. I did not agree to his offer immediately so I asked him for more time to think about it.

I actually took a week to ponder on the offer from Aziz. I did not involve my parents or any of my relatives in making the decision. I convinced myself that if converting to Islam was the only way out of my problems, so be it. One evening, I approached Aziz and told him I was ready to be a Muslim convert. He gladly embraced me and thanked me for the wise choice. He said “Kaka, wewe ni simba, kazi ushapata”, loosely translated as “Brother, you are a lion. You have got the job.”

My journey to becoming a Muslim convert started the following morning when Aziz invited me to his house which was a stone throw away from the Mosque. In the house, I met two other lads who were introduced to me by Aziz. He told us to feel free with each other and promised that he would take us to the mosque that afternoon to which we obliged.

The three of us had great time mingling until noon when our host Aziz told us to be ready. When the time came, Aziz led us to Riyadha Mosque and we were given a warm reception. He (Aziz) instructed us to remain calm and wait for the Sheikh who was going to offer us the job. He told us the Sheikh was to see us after Zuhr prayer which we came to learn that it meant noon prayers.

It was half past noon, when a Sheikh clad in white gown came and met us. He said his name was Sheikh Abdulrahaman Ali. We also introduced ourselves with our Christian names to which the Sheikh told us to stop using them because we were now converts. He gave me the name Omar but said I can retain the other two Kikuyu names hence Omar Gitonga kamau became my official name.

Sheikh Abdurahaman started to teach us on the foundations of Islam such as the five pillars of Islam, the five daily prayers and the basics beliefs of Islam. The Sheikh also instructed us to learn more from the Quran. We did the Islamic lessons for two weeks until when Sheikh Abdulrahaman was convinced that we understood the Quran very well.

It was during one of the lessons when Sheikh Abdulrahaman started to teach us about the importance of Hijra and Jihad. He told us that as Muslims, we should abide by the calling of Allah (Swt) to do Jihad. He said that the horn of Africa country, Somalia, was a good place to participate in Jihad. Sheikh Abdulrahaman told us that his ‘brothers’ in Somalia were ready to offer us a lucrative job where we would earn two thousand dollars ($2000) per month.

The offer of 2000 dollars per month was confusing. I quickly did my calculations and to my surprise, it was a whooping Ksh 200,000 per month. Where on earth would a form four leaver make that amount per month? I mumbled “Mungu ni mkuu” (God is great). I knew the gates of the dream that got shuttered earlier on after clearing secondary school were being re-opened. I didn’t want to wait for long. I wanted to be in Somalia as soon as possible.

Sheikh Abdulrahaman told us that we were going to meet his brothers in Somalia in three days. My friend, Aziz later came and told us we go home. Aziz told us not to tell anyone about the offer from the Sheikh Abdulrahaman and assured us that we were going to enjoy the benefits if we kept everything to ourselves. We promised him that we were going to be tight lipped about the offer. He asked us to meet him after three days in his house.

I went back home and informed my parents that after three days, I would go see a friend who was residing outside Nairobi. Though my parents were hesitant, I had to convince them on the importance of going to meet him. Little did they know that I was a Muslim convert and I was travelling to Somalia.

My journey to Somalia started at dawn. I woke up at 5 a.m and did my morning prayer (Fajr). I bid farewell to my parents early that morning and I went to Aziz’s house. I met my other friends and Aziz instructed us to go meet Sheikh Abdulrahaman. As time went by, I knew in a month, I would be Ksh.200, 000 richer. We met Sheikh Abdulrahaman waiting for us outside the Mosque. The five of us took a cab and went to Eastleigh.

We immediately boarded a bus that was waiting for us heading to Garissa. Sheikh Abdulrahaman had earlier given us Ksh1000 each for lunch. He told us that someone by the name Mohamed Abdi would meet us once we reached Garissa town.

No sooner had we reached Garissa town bus stop than we met Abdi waiting for us. He instantly recognized us since we were the only three people who were not of Somali decent. He jovially received us and immediately directed us to a car parked outside a supermarket. He told us he had bought enough food that would be enough for our journey to the ‘promised’ land.

A few kilometres from the town, a tarmac road came to an end and we ushered in a long and meandering rough road that was craggy and tiresome but Abdi kept telling us that we were hours away from instant riches. I must admit the anticipation in us made the journey interesting.

It took six hours from Garissa town to reach Liboi border town. Abdi told us that he was going to pick our ‘employer’ who was somewhere in the town. He instructed us to remain in the car as he alighted. We chose not to raise any eyebrows and so we remained inside the tinted car.

Abdi took 20 minutes and came back with a smartly dressed middle aged Somali man. He introduced himself as Sheikh Osman Khuno and told us he was our employer. He told us we would be working in Jilib town. Though he did not give many details, he said we were going to evade security check points so that we could reach safely.

We begun our journey from Liboi town and we entered Somalia. We immediately deviated from the main road. The route that we took was so frightening. It was so dust and Sheikh Khuno was very quiet. The only sound we could hear was that of the car. I knew things were not ok but I comforted myself.

Suddenly Sheikh Khuno spoke and told us we were almost Jilib town. That is the only time he talked while we were inside the car. He removed his mobile phone and made a call. He spoke in Somali and none of us understood what he told the receiver on the other end. In less than five minutes, we arrived at Jilib town.

To our surprise, we were received by more than five men all armed and dressed in a strange way. Sheikh Khuno told us that they were his bodyguards. What clicked my mind is that, we were duped and now we are joining the Al Shabaab terrorist group. Sheikh Khuno without hesitation told us that he was an Al Shabaab commander and the job he wanted us to do was to fight the apostate Somali Federal Government and the kuffars by the name AMISOM especially Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). I immediately regretted my decision.

Sheikh Khuno actually handed us over to his bodyguards and they immediately bungled us into old looking house in the middle of the town. They mistreated us a lot by kicking us like soccer balls. They told us we had only two options; to either accept join the fight against the kuffars or they would kill us. The oppression was too much to handle. We had to accept join them in ‘their’ fight.

The four weeks we spent inside the old looking house seemed like four years. We were brutally tortured and forced to learn how to use the different weapons they had at their disposal. They would sometimes make us starve for days. We would only see the beam of light through the holes. At night, we would only hear people talking in low tones.  Although the three of us were in the same house, we rarely talked to each other. We blamed our greed for money to be the sole reason for our predicament.

It was after the fourth week that Sheikh Khuno came and told us that he had planned a raid that evening against the KDF and the three of us were expected to participate. He told us to corporate with other fighters and promised us that we will get Ksh. 100,000 each if we came back with a head of a KDF soldier. He nicknamed us ‘The Three Kenyan Lions’.

Hours before the attack, I wondered how I would face the mighty KDF with the weaponry they had. Even though I did not talk to my two friends, I had to come up with a plan of running away from Al Shabaab.

The raid that night didn’t go as planned. We only conducted a probing attack in one of the KDF defensive position. The KDF alertness and their artillery firepower made us scamper for safety. We were squarely pinned down. We had to pull back.

My plans to run away from Al Shabaab camp were slowly gathering pace. We had conducted more than three raids in a month and what we got was a thorough beating from the AMISOM forces. We, the Al Shabaab fighters were being killed as cockroaches. I was in too much stress. I didn’t want to die a young man.

It was a Saturday morning when I got a chance to run away. We were tasked by Sheikh Khuno to collect firewood. I knew this was my best chance to get away from the evil Al Shabaab. I knew if they detected my plans, they would kill me. As a norm, we used to go in groups of three used in order to defeat detection from locals. That day, I was lucky to be given two fighters who were younger than me. Sheikh Khuno gave me the task of being their commander.

On our way to collecting firewood, I told them to move ahead like 100 meters. I was expected to give them full support in case of attacks behind them. They accepted my plan and I was left behind slowly following them. Little did they know that I was getting away from them. In less than 10 minutes, I was off their radar. I started manoeuvring my way out. I would hide behind the scanty bushes in case I sensed danger.

I walked like 20 kilometres and noticed that I was near a Government security checkpoint. Since I wanted to be exonerated from Al Shabaab, I decided to surrender to them. It was not an easy decision. I was almost shot at the moment I reached the checkpoint. I rose up my hands and one of them grabbed me from behind. They handcuffed me and immediately transferred me to a KDF camp nearby.

I was interrogated by KDF intelligence officers and frankly narrated to them on how I was duped to join Al Shabaab. I also told them about my parents who were residing in Majengo. The KDF officers never mistreated me. They gave me hopes of coming back to Kenya. They made sure I was given enough food to eat and healthy.

After two days, a Kenya Air Force helicopter and airlifted me to Moi Air Base Eastleigh where I was received by my parents and interior security senior officers. I was taken to the Ministry of Interior Security where I was also interrogated and assured of my security. In a nutshell, the ministry officials regarded me as one of the key members in Kenya’s fight against youth radicalisation and terrorism.

I sincerely apologise to my parents and Kenyans at large. I never knew I was being radicalised in Majengo. I will never allow any youth in Kenya to be radicalised. I will always remain a patriotic Kenyan and will always prevent it from Al Shabaab cowards and liars.