For Kenyan college students, the university experience involves more than just term papers, final exams and all-night study sessions. It is a period where students meet new people and experience so many new things.
Joy Alunga a participant in the Lenga Ugaidi na talanta competition revealed that she participated in the short film counter terrorism competition because she wanted to inform her peers that radicalization happens in universities.
“It’s not mad people who become radicalized; it’s people like us. People, who dress neatly every day like I have dressed, are the people who get radicalized. It is not those people who you think, for example, have not gone to school. It is people like us who get radicalized,” said Joy.
Alunga who spoke to the organizers of the competition said the youth should take the front seat in the fight against terrorism. Radicalization and violent youth extremism were key themes of the competition.
“Radicalization is a result of the disappointment that young people are going through,” said Alunga, “That’s why they are vulnerable to these extremist groups such as Al Shabaab.
The recruiters, go to institutions, formal institutions like universities and target the brightest students,” In January 2018 it was established that 54 university students abandoned their studies to join terrorist groups in Somalia and Libya over the last three years. A number of those who fled have since been killed either in combat or executed after falling out with their commanders.
Ms Alunga has called on fellow university students to pay more attention to attractive job offers and money deals. The third year student has called for increased vigil in learning institutions.
Shady was a fourteen year old male from Kahawa west a bright, quiet and reserved boy who loved playing video games. He often found consolation when playing online games, but an experience with online gaming changed him within a year.
Every day after school, Shady used to go to the cyber cafe that was near his home in the heart of Kahawa west. Shady was also learning French and Arabic in school so he used to ask his parents for money to go and do research on the internet.
He was really good in the two languages and that reflected in the grades he got in school, so his parents never suspected that he would spend hours in the cyber playing games.
With time he became good in the games so he started playing games that were rated PG 18 because they involved the use of guns and most had graphic content that appealed to boys his age, the unique feature of these games was they had chat rooms where players got to communicate with each other.
One time as Shady was playing a game called Salil al-Sawarem (The Clanging of the Swords) he got a chance to play with an opponent who was Arabian and created a friendship, which was enhanced especially when they used Arabic to communicate. Shady was excited that he could get a chance to practice the language with his new friend. His friend’s name was Mahmud Abbasand he was from Syria. Shady’s curiosity increased and his interest in Abbas’ culture grew, he wanted to learn more about his culture and country so they exchanged contacts.
Abbas asked Shady only to text him on Telegram since it was the only social media platform allowed in their country. The friendship grew for a year, then Shady’s behaviour started changing, he started becoming violent in school. One day got into a confrontation with one of the students and stabbed him with a fork.
This started raising concerns to both his parents and teachers and they even took him to a counsellor but they still did not understand why his behaviour had changed drastically.
One evening his parents received a call from the police who told them that their son had been caught with three other teenage boys trying to cross the border to Somalia to join Al shabaab.
During interrogation, Shady confessed of how he was given directions of how to get to Somalia where he would fight using real guns and would even be known as a hero, instead of playing video games using fake guns.
Samuel Kairo Njenga is currently being held at the Mandera Police station after he was found at Koromey area trekking to Arabia along the Kenya-Somalia boarder.
According to state counsel Allen Mulama, the suspect arrived in Mandera from Mombasa where he had stayed after his return from Tanzania on an unknown mission.
Preliminary reports in police possession indicate the suspect was in Tanzania through Kwale County and that he has been operating between Kwale and Kilifi counties.
According to security agencies, there are indications that the suspect was in contact with someone from Mombasa and that he was to be picked up in the Arabia area to enter Somalia.
The suspect had all the valid documents to allow him cross into Somalia, but he failed to report at the immigration offices to secure permission to exit. During his arrest, Njenga was found with fake documents among them hard copy maps, foreign currency and Kenyan identification.
He told the police reservists upon arrest that he was headed to Somalia to secure employment and he did not disclose much. The police suspect he was recruited by Al-Shabaab and was on his way to join the terror group. The court has ordered investigation in under 14 days.
In the modern world, with huge technological advances, resulting in the emergence of the information age has seen the whole world become a closely-knit global village where spread of information is fast.
Terror groups have taken advantage of the situation to radicalize and recruit from the world over, bringing a lot of efficiency with it at the same time saving money & resources.
Terrorists have evolved with time as they try to fit in and cope with counter-terrorism measures deployed. Women and girls are a group that cannot be ignored currently, an area that terrorists have taken full advantage of; disguise is a major tactic here. Think of the emotion that a woman evokes – warm, innocent, harmless, caring etc, the list is endless. The thought of such, packaged with weapons or explosives for a suicide mission or an ambush in itself is terrifying, the changing face of terrorism is a reality.
A lot of factors lead to luring our sisters in this scourge, one of the main ones being the need for a sense of identity or recognition. This is mainly triggered by a society that neglects or demeans the girl child, leaving a void that is readily open for exploitation.
Among other factors are social economic, to be specific poverty; which gives the ice breaker to the terror groups to offer lucrative promises of wealth, good life and even family support all of which in most cases would be received with open hands. If not well monitored, this gives way to a girl / woman being radicalized. Peer groups with extremist views after being radicalized catalyze the process, spreading the scourge and influencing to win more recruits, a domino effect kind of scenario. All this is fueled by the need for identity (status, recognition, security etc.) only to later discover that it’s all a big lie, deception to one’s own grave.
Governments in developing economies have gone ahead to devolve areas within their boundaries so as to give equal share of resource and opportunity. In such scenarios, empowerment is a tool that can be used effectively to fight the scourge. Communities have also been urged to have an all-inclusive approach regardless of religion, gender, age or social status. At the end of the day, all this calls for vigilance and the need to stand for what is right.
Uganda Police have rescued over 100 women and children from an Islamist radicalisation centre in downtown Kampala. Ugandan police say they stumbled on the mosque located in the city’s Central business district as they were pursuing a key suspect connected to kidnappings and killings in the country.
During the operation, two men said to be terrorists were shot dead as they exchanged fire with the forces. Police say they seized weapons among them 60 rounds of ammunition, machetes, arrows and bows. Islamic reading materials were also captured from the mosque.
Locals say the mosque’s leader was arrested a month ago, after complaints from neighbours who suspected him of disseminating extremist messages. “I think they were grooming those kids in there for something,” said a local council official
The 18 women and 94 children from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda were safely moved from the mosque for further investigation. 36 suspects are in custody in connection to the hostages
The National Police Service has released a statement on three Kenyans said to have sneaked out of Kenya to Somalia. The three; Mohamed Abdalla Asman alias Papa alias Raymond from Majengo in Nairobi, Hamisi Hemed alias Baloteli and Ali Ahmed Ali, both from Malindi left Kenya early April to join the Al Qaeda linked militia group, Al Shabaab.
The three according to the statement sneaked out of the country with the help of an Al Shabaab contact whom the police are currently pursuing. Call Detail Records confirm that the three are still in contact with other suspected terrorists within the country with whom they plan to stage an attack in Kenya.
Before their escape to Somalia, both Hamisi Hemedi and Ali Ahmed Ali worked at Arafat hotel owned by one Mahfudhin in Malindi town.
Mohamed Abdalla Asman from Nairobi’s Majengo area had previously been arrested by security agencies on 4th October, 2013 while on his way to Somalia. He was charged, convicted and jailed at Garrissa GK Prison and was released on 12th July, 2017 after serving his term. By the time of his arrest in 2013, his journey to Somalia had been facilitated by Sheikh Ibrahim Umar alias Amru who had taught him religion at Answar Sunna Mosque.
The police force has therefore issued a stern warning on individuals abetting radicalization, recruitment and facilitation of their kin to join terror groups.
‘We wish to warn all parents, guardians or religious leaders withholding information on radicalization that they are liable for prosecution for abetting crime. Equally, they said parents and guardians risk losing their children to terrorism and eventually destroying their families and the entire community.’ Read the statement
According to police reports, members of the public have played a big part in tipping off suspected terrorists as well as operations out of the ordinary.