It is an extract from the 2011 UN Monitoring Report on Somalia, sent to the UN Security Council. It is document S/2011/433 and was presented on 18 July 2011.
With this kind of briefing no-one in the Kenyan government, the UN, or on the Security Council could argue they were not warned. Its focus was on one key radical group: the Muslim Youth Council, based in Nairobi.
As the report stated, Ahmad Iman Ali, the “Amiir” or leader of the Muslim Youth Council: “now intends to conduct large-scale attacks in Kenya, and possibly elsewhere in East Africa.”
[Note: the footnotes, which have not been included, are indicated with numerals in the text]
Case study: Muslim Youth Centre
1. The Monitoring Group has learned of extensive Kenyan networks linked to Al-Shabaab, which not only recruit and raise funds for the organization, but also conduct orientation and training events inside Kenya. Similar, but smaller networks, are believed to exist elsewhere in East Africa, and Al-Shabaab has also established functional linkages with jihadist groups in north, west, and southern Africa.
2. In the past, Al-Shabaab’s presence in Kenya has been concentrated primarily within the ethnic Somali community. But since 2009, the Group has rapidly expanded its influence and membership to non-Somali Kenyan nationals who, according to Monitoring Group estimates, today constitute the largest and most structurally organized non-Somali group within Al-Shabaab.1
3. During the course of this mandate, Monitoring Group investigations have focused principally upon the activities of the Muslim Youth Center (MYC), commonly known as Pumwani Muslim Youth (PMY). One of several pro Al-Shabaab indigenous Kenyan groups, the MYC is operationally active both in Kenya and Somalia with strong links to other East African countries.2
4. From its roots as an informal self-help group in the Majengo area of Nairobi, the MYC was officially established in December 2008, and swiftly evolved from a ‘rights forum’ claiming to articulate the social, economical and religious grievances of impoverished and disaffected young Muslims into one of the largest support networks for Al-Shabaab in Kenya.
5. Officially, the MYC Constitution defines the group as a ‘community based-organization’ that aims to provide youth with religious counselling; to further the cause of Islam; and to advance and promote peace and peaceful co-existence through the championing of justice, human rights and inclusiveness.3 In practice, members of the group openly engage in recruiting for Al-Shabaab in Kenya and facilitate travel to Somalia for individuals to train and fight for ‘jihad’ in Somalia.
6. In Nairobi, the principal leaders of MYC include:
• Acting-Chairman/Amiir: Idriss Nyaboga4
• Secretary: Hussein Ally
• Organizing Secretary: Abdi Mohamed
• Treasurer: Abdi Mohamed Mbithuka; and
• Coordinator: Mohamed Musa “Bamer”5
7. In Somalia, the MYC chain of command comprises:
• Amiir/Chairman: Ahmad Iman Ali;
• Senior Commander: Juma Ayub Otit Were “Taxi driver”;
• Senior Commander: Suleiman Irungo Mwangi “Karongo” aka Habib6
• Senior Commander: Mohamed Murithi “General”;
• Senior Commander: Wahome Tajir Ali “Abu Jafar”; and
• Commander: Ramadan Osao “Captain”.
MYC and Al-Shabaab
8. MYC’s ideological orientation appears to have been strongly influenced by Sheikh Aboud Rogo, a Kenyan Islamic cleric, based in Mombasa, who is an open advocate of Al-Shabaab and is suspected of direct links with the organization. Rogo was charged in 2002 with alleged involvement in the Al-Qaeda bombing of the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, but acquitted in 2005 for lack of evidence.8 In December 2010, he was again arrested and charged in connection with an explosion near a Kampala bound bus in the capital Nairobi.9
9. Rogo’s association with the MYC was initially established by Ahmad Iman Ali, who was a student at Rogo’s religious school in Mombasa, but since Ahmed Iman’s departure for Somali, Togo’s main point of contact has been Sylivester Opiyo Osodo (aka ‘Musa’) who heads MYC’s resource center. Opiyo has made regular visits to Rogo in Mombasa and arranges Rogo’s travel itinerary to and from Majengo, where the Sheikh has delivered lectures to the MYC membership.10 Rogo’s inspirational videos are distributed widely by MYC members for the purposes of radicalization and recruitment into Al-Shabaab. Prior to his arrest in 2010, Rogo reportedly travelled to Somalia for six months — apparently to bolster his credentials as a ‘jihadist’ — where he was hosted by Al-Shabaab.11
10. Other members and associates of the Pumwani Muslim Youth (PMY), the MYC’s predecessor, are believed to have begun making visits to Somalia as early as 2006.12 According to multiple sources in Majengo interviewed by the Monitoring Group, among the first of these was Juma Ayub Otit Were “Taxi Driver”13, who has since been instrumental in smuggling other MYC members across the border. A number of other ‘brokers’ involved in human smuggling have also aided Kenyan Al-Shabaab supporters to travel to Somalia, using several Eastleigh Hotels, including Royal Hotel inEastleigh, Nairobi as points of departure.14 These brokers exploit Kenya’s proximity to Somalia, its porous borders and corrupt border and security officials in order to facilitate the passage of MYC members and other indigenous to travel to Somalia on their ‘hijra’ to fight alongside Al-Shabaab.
11. The growing numbers of MYC members and other indigenous Kenyans involved in the Somali conflict has not escaped notice. On 15 July 2008, an Al-Shabaab force of 30-40 fighters, including an MYC member named Mohamed Juma Rajab (aka Qa’Qa “Kadume”), ambushed a column of TFG and Ethiopian forces 60km from Baidoa at Bardaale. In the course of the fighting, Qa’Qa, an RPG shooter, was killed. After the incident, a senior Al-Shabaab commander, Al-Amiriki is seen in a video titled “Ambush at Bardale” eulogizing Qa’Qa’s as an ideal Mujahedeen. In a further acknowledgement of the Kenyans’ role within Al-Shabaab ranks, a senior MYC member, Wahome Tajir Ali “Abu Jafar”, is featured in a November 2010 Al-Shabaab video release, which Monitoring Group believes to be a recruitment pitch targeting Swahili-speaking Africans.15
12. On 20 March 2011, Ras Kamboni militia under the command of Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, together with Kenyan-trained TFG forces, attacked Al-Shabaab militias in the district of Dhobley in Lower Juba. After several hours of heavy fighting Ras Kamboni militia and TFG forces retreated. The Monitoring Group has since learned that several members of the Kenyan contingent in Somalia fought alongside Al-Shabaab during this clash, including an MYC commander named Ramadan Osao
“Captain”. In a telephone call from Dhobley to a key Pumwani Riyadha Mosque Committee (PRMC) member on 21 March 2011, “Captain” described Al-Shabaab’s victory over the Ras Kamboni forces and cited the “victory” as justification for more members of MYC to travel to Somalia to join the ranks of Al-Shabaab.16
13. The Muslim Youth Center (MYC) is based in Nairobi, but has also developed a strong network of members and sympathizers in areas such as Eldoret, Garissa and Mombasa. The Kenyan chapter’s core responsibilities include addressing the social and economic needs of its membership17, preparing members to “cross-over”18 into Somalia for ‘jihad’,19 outreach, and propaganda.
14. Since 2008, the Monitoring Group has learned that a weekly newsletter, Al-Misbah20 published by MYC for its Kenyan audience has disseminated extremist material in support of both Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda. In a series of weekly issues from 9 October to 26 November 2009, under the headline “Jihaad is our Religion”, Al Misbah published a seminal article of Anwar al Awlaki, a senior Al Qaeda figure based in Yemen, entitled “44 Ways of Supporting Jihaad”, which encouraged readers to support the ‘mujahideen’ with moral support, by paying their expenses, contributing to their medical needs, and spreading the writings of the Mujahideen and their scholars.21
15. The same edition included a number of related articles, including a critique of TFG by a Sheikh Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi, entitled “A Message in Support of Mujahideen in Somalia and Exposing The Suspicions of Dajjaal Scholars”,22 which openly praised the leadership of Al-Shabaab and offered an ‘Islamic critique’ of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmad’s ties with the West. In addition to the article,
Al-Misbah also advertised the sale of Jihad T-shirts, which included children’s sizes, bearing the inscription “Jihaad is our Religion”.
16. Information and video evidence presented to the Monitoring Group confirms that the T-shirts advertised in Al-Misbah were in fact part of a consignment used during a ‘jihad training session’ for young children at Masjid Nuur (Nuur Mosque) in Kawangware, Nairobi on 20 October 2009.23 During an initial interview with the Monitoring Group, the Imam of the mosque denied that MYC had used the Mosque to recruit for Al Shabaab. But when presented with a photo of one of the young
participants who had attended the MYC session, 24 he admitted that such an event must have taken place secretly at the Mosque.25 The Imam also told the Group that Idris Christopher Magondu, an MYC associate who is currently in detention in Kampala for his alleged role in the Kampala bombings of July 2010, had frequented the mosque on numerous occasions.26
17. ‘Jihad training sessions’ typically consist of classroom-based lectures using examples of ‘Islamic struggles’ such as conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen; profiles of certain radical clerics and their ideologies; and videos of previous MYC events.27 They may also involve outdoor activities. One such event took place on 27 September 2009, at the Sir Ali Muslim Club in Nairobi. Although advertised as an “Eid funfair and celebration” with camel-rides and other entertainment, the
Monitoring Group has obtained photographic evidence that MYC held a ‘jihad training exercise’ at the grounds on 27 October 2009, attended by at least 50 MYC members wearing combat style waistcoats with the inscription “Jihaad is our Religion”.28 Rental of the club premises was covered by a deposit of KES 35,000 by an individual named ‘Feisal Musa’ on behalf of the Park Road Youth Group — a partner Muslim youth group with close links to MYC ‘Amiir’ Ahmad Iman Ali.29 After initial denials and contradictory testimonies, the Sir Ali Muslim Club Manager and some Committee members now acknowledge that this event did take place, but do not admit that any para-military training took place.30
18. In January 2010, MYC had a further opportunity to exhibit its commitment to Al-Shabaab. Early in the month, Jamaican Muslim preacher, Abdullah al-Faisal had been arrested by the Kenyan authorities. In response, MYC members led by Mohamed Murithi “General”31 planned and participated in violent demonstrations in the Nairobi town centre,32 which were captured in a 45-minute video produced by MYC’s media wing, Hijra Media, entitled “Nairobi Intifada, 15 January 2010”. The video is accompanied by a background theme song “Nairobi Tutafika” sung by Wahome Tajir Ali “Abu Jafar” an MYC commander based in Somalia and close confidant of ‘Amiir’ Ahmed Iman Ali. The video opens with the Al-Shabaab logo, and a message from MYC pledging that the “Muslim youth of Kenya support our Mujahideen brothers in Somalia…” and includes footage of deceased Kenyan Al Qaeda figure, Saleh Al Saleh Nabhan. The Monitoring Group has positively identified a number of MYC members who appear in the video wearing ‘jihad’ T-shirts and carrying the Al-Shabaab flag while engaging in violence against Kenyan security officials.33
Extending the ‘jihad’ to Kenya
19. Ahmad Iman Ali, the “Amiir of MYC” and “Amiir of Majengo”34 has more recently emerged as the ‘Amiir’ of East African jihadists in Somalia.35 Having based himself in Somalia since 2009, he is currently believed to command an estimated force of between 200 and 500 fighters, most of whom are Kenyans, and specifically MYC members — including minors36 — from Majengo who have been motivated by his persistent proselytizing.37 Ahmed Iman’s success in recruiting fighters and mobilizing funds for the cause, appear to have earned him steady ascendancy within Al-Shabaab.38 The Monitoring Group believes that he now intends to conduct large-scale attacks in Kenya, and possibly elsewhere in East Africa.
20. During a 13 September 2010 lecture, addressing MYC combatants and other Swahili-speaking fighters in Somalia, Ahmad Iman dissuaded Kenyan Muslims from engaging in national politics, urging them instead to “Chinja” (cut), “Chonga” (peel) and “Fiyeka” (slash)” the throats of the [Kenyan] infidels and “to hit back and cause blasts [in Kenya]” similar to the Kampala bombings. 39
21. In another undated message, uploaded to the Internet on 30 December 2010, Ahmad Iman encouraged MYC members to begin jihad in Kenya by attacking its institutions. Part of the message urged its members to contemplate “…a man who says, strap the bombs on me and let me blow myself up in the Parliament building of Kenya”.40
22. On 7 March 2011, Kenyan security officials issued an alert against nine MYC members suspected to have trained in Somalia.41 Among the MYC members listed in the alert were:
• Juma Ayub Otit Were “Taxi Driver”, a senior MYC commander in Somalia serving with Al-Shabaab;
• Abass Mohamed Mwai a combatant fighting in Somalia alongside Al-Shabaab;
• Sylivester Opiyo Osodo aka ‘Musa’, a close confidant of Kenyan Sheikh Aboud Rogo who serves as MYC’s ‘librarian’ in charge of its resource center; and
• Abdulrahman Mutua Daud.
23. A serving MYC member independently informed the Monitoring Group that members have been returning to Kenya from Somalia since late 2010, with a view to conducting possible operations in Kenya, at the direction of Amiir Ahmad Iman.42 The same sources have indicated that some MYC members not mentioned in the alert are currently in hiding in Mombasa, but continue to be supported financially by MYC and its supporters.43 They have also shown the Monitoring Group an MYC ‘safe
house’ 60 kilometers from Nairobi, previously used by MYC senior commander, Juma Ayub Otit Were “Taxi driver” and other MYC members.
24. On 9 October 2009, MYC advertising through its Al-Misbah newsletter urged members to attend a MYC symposium from 10 to 11 October 2009. Among the speakers of the symposium were Sheikh Ali Bahero44 and ‘Amiir’ Ahmad Iman Ali.45 On 10 October 2009, Sheikh Ali Bahero delivered a lecture titled “Role of the Youth in Da’wah”, which focused primarily on preparing for Jihad and how to reach Somalia. In the video of the symposium viewed by the Monitoring Group, Ali Bahero is seen
justifying child recruitment of Al-Shabaab in saying: “…the prophet was recruiting children [for Jihad] from the age of 13. Al-Shabaab is doing the same; similar to what the prophet did”. In addition, he is also featured describing to his MYC audience travel routes to Somalia from Nairobi by telling them:
Ahmad] Sharif is I have to catch a bus from Nairobi to Malindi, and then get to Lamu and then get onto a boat to our final destination [Somalia].”46
25. This trend is principally aimed at externalizing the conflict, as the Monitoring Group believes was the primary motive for the Kampala bombings in 2010. Currently, the Monitoring Group is investigating the possible role of MYC in the incident, and has also established a connection between a number of the key suspects involved in the bombings to MYC commanders and Amiirs.
Commerce, Charity and Crime: Al-Shabaab Financial Support Networks in Kenya
26. Al-Shabaab supporters in Kenya have established an extensive and complex financial support system to sustain their own activities, sponsor the travel of recruits to Somalia, support the Kenyan families of Al-Shabaab members in the field, and provide financial contributions to the jihadist cause. The movement considers such funding to be critical to sustaining the presence of east African jihadists
fighting alongside Al-Shabaab in Somalia. On 27 March 2011, Ahmad Iman issued a directive to his Kenyan associates, that the organization should “direct all the money to Al-Shabaab because it is their right […] He [Ahmad Iman] instructed us to stop the construction [of the mosque] and re-direct the money to that side [Somalia].”47
27. A key pillar of Kenyan financial support for Al-Shabaab is the Pumwani Riyadha Mosque Committee (PRMC), which owns a large section of land in Majengo, including Gikomba market — the largest second-hand clothes market in Kenya. Historically, lots in the market place have been leased in order to raise funds for the mosque. But in 2008, under the pretext of establishing a ‘self-help group’, Ahmad Iman succeeded in persuading the PRMC to appoint Pumwani Muslim Youth members as ‘rent collectors’. The negotiation resulted in PMY members receiving a percentage of the rent, thus providing income and employment for a large number of young Muslims in Majengo.48 When Ahmad Iman was appointed the PRMC secretary on 7 June 2009, the PMY/MYC, with the tacit blessing of the PRMC, became the de facto ‘owners’ of Gikomba market and appropriated all its revenues.49
28. Bank statements and other related documents obtained by the Monitoring Group confirm that MYC also benefits from direct financial contributions by PRMC in support of its Al-Shabaab related activities. Since at least August 2009, the PMY/MYC has been receiving approximately KES20,000 per month from PRMC’s Gulf African Bank account, ostensibly for the publication of Al-Misbah.50 At
the same time, PRMC supports a number of families in Majengo, Nairobi as part of the Mosque’s community support program, including the families of MYC members fighting alongside Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
29. In February 2010, for example, MYC member Ramadan Shuaib “Giggs” travelled to Somalia. However, an 11 April 2010 audio recording of PRMC members discussing the reported “cross over” of Mohamed Said Oribo, an MYC member and a Majengo ‘Amiir’ aspirant, the audio obtained by the Monitoring Group indicates that regular payments continue being made to Giggs.51 Likewise, a source familiar with MYC member Henry Saidi Irangu “Baba”, who left to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia in
February 2011, confirmed to the Monitoring Group that both “Baba” and his family continue to receive financial assistance from PRMC.52
30. PRMC’s funding of MYC also involves the sponsorship of travel to Somalia to join the ranks of Al-Shabaab. An audio recording of a PRMC discussion, reinforced by multiple interviews, confirms PRMC financial assistance for MYC members to join Al-Shabaab.53 Monitoring Group investigations suggest that such funding comes both from PRMC’s ‘official’ Gulf African Bank account (no. 08100025010), and also from a second account with Chase Bank (no. 601259001), whose existence is
known only to a select group of PRMC Committee members.54
31. Since it was opened on 1 October 2010, the PRMC Chase Bank account has only received ‘internal’ transfers from the PRMC’s Gulf Bank account, with one notable exception: a deposit of KES500,000 on 17 February 2011 from Kenyan Member of Parliament Amina Abdalla.55 In an interview with the Monitoring Group, the MP confirmed her close association with Ali Abdulmajid, a senior official of PRMC and Vice Chairman of Riyadha Mosque Committee, 56 and acknowledged that
she has frequently sought the assistance of MYC members for campaigning purposes. But she described the funds as a contribution to Riyadha Mosque’s reconstruction fundraising and denied any knowledge of linkages between PRMC or MYC and Al-Shabaab. The Monitoring Group believes that the donation in question was solicited by PRMC members under false pretences, in part for funding MYC activities in Somalia, and has no evidence to suggest wilful wrongdoing on the part of the MP.
32. Other senior Kenyan politicians have also in the past donated funds to PRMC. For example, the Monitoring Group has learned that on 12 September 2009, the Kenyan Minister of Tourism, Najib Balala made a “public cash donation” of KES200,000 to a PRMC’s Riyadha Mosque reconstruction fundraising event.57 The Minister’s donation was deposited into the PRMC’s Development Steering
Committee’s account at Habib Bank (account no. 302178-03) — an account that was, at the time, overseen by ‘Amiir’ Ahmad Iman and other MYC members. The Monitoring Gorup has received credible information indicating that that funds deposited into this and other accounts (PRMC Gulf African Bank) controlled by ‘Amiir’ Ahmad Iman were used at least in part to finance his passage to, and upkeep in, Somalia in late 2009.58 The Monitoring Group has no evidence to suggest that Minister Balala was aware that his financial contribution to the PRMC might be used to support Al-Shabaab.
33. The Monitoring Group obtained an audio recording of a 7 May 2011 phone call between members of PRMC and MYC combatants in Somalia that clearly demonstrates PRMC’s continued funding of MYC combatants fighting alongside Al-Shabaab.59 During the conversation between Ramadan Osao “Captain” a MYC commander and the PRMC official, “Captain” can be heard persistently appealing to the official to send funds to the combatants and requests for US$1,000 to be
sent to the indigenous Kenyan contingent with Al-Shabaab, noting that “…this is what [they] should contribute to because the material world has no meaning now…”. In response, the PRMC official repeatedly promises to assist in finding a way to send the requested funds.
34. Another reliable source of financial support for the MYC is the Afwan Medical Center (AMC). Since 2008, AMC has paid for advertising space in MYC’s weekly Al-Misbah newsletter, which propagated jihad and openly supports Al-Shabaab. On 21 February 2009, AMC assisted MYC in opening a bank account at the Gulf African Bank, Eastleigh branch, into which regular deposits of KES 15,000 were made over a period of six months (between 2009 and 2010) in the name of Dr. Ali Omar Salim (managing director of AMC) and of the AMC itself.60