How a Teenager Helped Security to Break Alshabaab Cells in East Africa

September 22, 2013 10:54 pm0 comments by:

As East Africa grappled with the aftermath, of the 2010, World Cup, bombing which claimed more than eighty football fans in the Ugandan capital Kampala, the region soon, embarked on the hunt for the killers.
The hunt for the terrorists spread to Mombasa and Dar-es Salaam where Alshabab had established terrorist cells.
As the East African joint anti-terrorism taskforce intensified, the crackdown, on the terrorists, luck came their way when they landed on a 13-year-old boy, who later led them to a deadly cell in Dar-es Salaam Tanzania.
The boy who is now 20-years, recounts his story, to the Continent Observer, how he ended up in a deadly terrorist cell and the role he played as a trained suicide bomber. The torture he underwent in fifteen different detention centers in four east African countries.
Here, he narrates his story to Joseph Elunya the Continent Observer Bureau Chief for Uganda.
My name is Issa Ali Ssenkumbi, I grew up in Kampala, with my father and a step mom, and I studied only up to Primary Six in Nakivubo Primary School.
I later dropped out of school in 2003, when my mother-Hadija Nakayiza separated with my dad.
I used to do manual work, around Kampala, until one day in 2007, when a man called Hussein Hassan met me at Kalintusi mosque where he offered to take me to a Madrassa-a school for Islamic instructions in Mombasa to study free of charge.
After a week, I traveled with him on a bus to Nairobi where we made a brief stopover at a place called Estleigh before proceeding to Mwembe-tayari in Mombasa, where I found close to 30 age mates from different countries.
We were taught Islamic Jihad by three teachers who are of Ugandan origin-Hussein Kirumira, Ismael Luwemba and Muzamiru from 9pm-11 pm every day at Sakina Mosque.
After about a month, an armored landcruisher with tinted windows came and we were ordered to enter it, we driven up to Mandera.
All this time, we had not known what we were being taken to do from there but reality struck me when I saw a group of young men brandishing AK 47 assault rifles.
After searching us thoroughly, the Alshabaab commanders welcomed us and told us that they are glad that we have joined the holy war.
They immediately led us to the training ground where we were trained in different war fares.
Once there, Sheik Abudallah Zaki renamed me Musa Ali, and I was trained, in how to make impoverished devices, and how to ensure the explosives cause maximum damage when they are exploded.
I was also trained on how to use a suicide belt and the training lasted for six months.
Later I played a vital role in reconnaissance missions, I would be sent to spy on where the enemy has deployed.
One day, I was sent to deliver eight bombs to someone in Ethiopia and I successfully did it and returned to our headquarters in Beled Hawo.
But as fate would have it on the second assignment, I was heading to Ethiopia with a gun but I met a young girl who warned me that, there were soldiers ahead I threw away the gun but I forgot to remove the Alshabaab headscarf.
The Ethiopian soldiers beat me up while forcing me to admit that I was a member of Alshaab militia.
The torture went on daily from the prison where I was taken.
One day, I hatched a plan to escape and I connived with the other seven inmates in the cell to escape.
You see the Ethiopians had developed trust in me. They would allow me to get out, and do work such as cleaning the compound, so one day I stealthy climbed on top of a roof, and rolled a big stone that we had earlier placed on the rooftop.
The stone hit the guard, who was on duty and he died instantly my friends picked his gun and shot dead other guards who were around.
We escaped and moved up to River Tana in Kenya but we were rounded up, by the Kenyan security officials. They asked me whether we belonged to Alshabaab which we denied but they later transferred us to Nairobi.
From Nairobi, I was driven and handed over to the Ugandan security officials at Malaba who took me to a safe house in Kampala. At the safe house, I was tortured daily by the security officials who wanted me to confess, that I knew the suicide bombers who killed people from Lugogo during the World Cup season.
Later I was taken to court but the judge set me free after prosecution failed to connect me to the bombing, but the security officials could not let me go home.
They arrested me from outside court and took me back to a safe house where I spent nine month being tortured daily.
I later hatched a plan, of escaping by pretending that I had become unconscious, they brought a doctor who checked me and advised them to let me go home and continue with the treatment from there.
But when I reached home I stayed for three days and left, I called up a friend called Capt. Abibi who had been with me in prison but was released.
Captain Abibi told me to travel to Arua and he would connect me with some rebels from Central African Republic but I was heading out of the border I was rearrested and taken back to Kampala to a safe house.
But this time unlike in the past I was determined to end my life, so I hatched a plan and mixed pieces of crashed blade, into the porridge which I was to take but then a fellow inmate alerted security officials who came in and took away the porridge before I could take it.
The security officials were forced this time to unconditionally set me free.
They handed me to Morris Mukasa the director of an organization that deals with rehabilitating ex-criminals.
I stayed with Mr. Morris for a short while but I still wanted to go back to Alshabaab, so I called Hussein Hassan again and told him that I wanted to go back and join Alshabaab.
He gave me the contact, of a certain man in Dar-es Salaam whom he told me to link up with but since I had no money, I decided to steal Morris’s expensive watch, which I sold at about US$ 100 and booked a bus to Dar-es Salaam.
When I reached Dar-es Salaam I called the number that I was given and the gentleman told me to find him at the mosque. He later took me to a house around Africana Road where he gave me the money and a contact of a man whom I was to call when I get to Kenya.
I started my journey, the next day and made a stopover at a hotel, some kilometers to the Kenyan border but as fate would have it, the next day I set off for the journey but little did I know that I had forgotten the jacket where I had put the money at the hotel.
After a short distance, I realized I had left my jacket and the money at the hotel and when I returned the waitresses claimed they had not seen it.
I had no money to proceed to Kenya so I looked for a commuter taxi being driven by a muslim, you know muslims are so friendly, one accepted to drop me back to Dar-es Salaam free of charge after explaining to him what happened.
But on getting back to the mosque the number of the contact, was off so I stayed in the mosque for three days.
I however don’t know who betrayed, me by telling security that I was an alshabaab recruit. They came and arrested and asked me to lead them to my contacts.
They promised to set me free if I co-operated with them. They coerced me by taking me to a very expensive hotel in Dar-es Salaam where they told me to eat anything I wanted.
But at the end of the day they would come and ask me to tell them who the contacts of Alshabaab are in Dar-es salaam.
So on the third day, I told them I knew the home of the leader and offered to take them there but when we reached there we found that he had relocated.
The security officials got annoyed and told me that I will refund, all the money they have spent taking care of me in a hotel.
That’s when I offered to take them to the mosque where I had met the contacts from lucky enough we found people who knew the people we were looking for.
They directed us to a home where we found several youths, undergoing martial arts training, the plain clothes security officials raided the premises and recovered five guns and materials for making bombs.
They also arrested about five people. Those arrested directed them to Mombasa where there was another cell.
They thanked me but they were still tough on me that I failed to take them to the ring leader. After a week they drove me on Landrovers and handed me to Ugandan security officials at Mutukula border.
At Mutukula border they checked and found my photo among those of suspected terrorists. They detained me briefly and later handed me back to Mr. Morris to rehabilitate me.
I’ am now in a driving school, and when I look back at my life all I can say is fate made it that way.

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