Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Alarm as Kenyan youths enlisted in al Shabaab killed

Laban Walloga | Nation Ms Saum Mwachambuni (right), the mother of 27-year-old Suleiman Hassan, is consoled by a relative after she broke down in tears in Mombasa on May 10, 2011. Hassan died in Somalia as an al Shabaab fighter.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

These were his last words: “Everyone was born alone and whenever I die, I should be buried in accordance to Muslim rituals.”

Suleiman Hassan, 27, spoke those words to his mother and then left home to go to Somali where he died fighting for the al Shabaab terrorists.

Hassan, a devout Muslim who spent most of his time in mosques, was said to have left for Zanzibar for special religious teachings, only for his family to learn later that he was among dozens of youths recruited two years ago by the militia in South Coast.

His mother Saum Mwachambuni is yet to come to terms with the death of her only son.
“When I got news of his death, the words he told me the last day I saw him echoed in my mind. But I am not yet convinced that Hassan is dead. I hope one day I will see him coming back home smiling as he used to,” she said.

The distressed mother said the caller from Somalia on April 5, described how his son was buried.
“I was told my son married as soon as he reached there, and when he died he was buried in his house.”

Speaking to the Nation at her home in Diani in South Coast, she said the person who called her knows her family background well since he described every detail about Hassan. This, she added, proved that the agents who recruit youths to Somalia live in the neighborhood.

The mother left no doubt that the agents are in the mosques, since her son is said to have left with some religious leaders.

Accompanied son
“It is a pity that nobody wants to tell me more, even his close friends who accompanied my son. That’s why I still have doubt if really my son has died,” she said.

The mother said the event had affected her daughter, who is now traumatised. Whenever her daughter sees any stranger in the house, she thinks more family members are targeted.

“She was very close to her brother Hassan,” Ms Mwachambuni said.

Her story is not the only one, since several families have confessed that they are mourning relatives, who have died in Somalia after they were secretly sneaked out to help al Shabaab fight the internationally-recognised Transitional Federal Government forces for control of lawless Somalia.

Secret funerals organised by relatives and friends of youth from Kenya have been on the increase in the province, raising concern among religious leaders and government officials.

The number of youth reported to have died in the war have been on the increase, with at least a case reported in different regions in Coast Province every month.

Despite different families undergoing trauma after losing their loved ones in Somalia, they are afraid to reveal any more details as they are worried the government may use the information against them.

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya national treasurer Sheikh Omar Hassan has confirmed that several youths have died in Somalia, while some are still in the hands of the outlawed group.

While the council in Mombasa has statistics of up to 10 dead youths, Sheikh Omar said the number could be as high as 50, with those returning posing a security threat to the country.

The Imams council in its report said the large number of youths being recruited to join al Shaabab was worrying, adding, this had forced them to find ways of discouraging the recruitment. Apart from South Coast, recruitment has been reported in Lamu.

Two weeks ago, Sheikh Omar accused his colleagues of using mosques to recruit youths to the outlawed militia. He said that at least three mosques within the region had been identified as recruitment centers.

He identified a mosque in Majengo as one of the venues where madrasa (religious classes) are held every Tuesday with the aim of recruiting youths.

According to a source, who did not wish to be named, the sermons convinced the youths to join the militia in Somalia.

“They tell youths that there is a Holy war in Somalia, which is obligatory for all Muslims (Fard’Ain). They say non-Muslims are there and we must go over to fight them until they leave the Islamic country to be governed by Muslims,” said a source, adding that such information was also available on CDs on sale.

According to Sheikh Omar, the government had been briefed.

“It is the government’s duty to protect its citizens, but it is sad that to-date, although we have informed several security officials of the happenings, no action has been taken. The government should save our youths by arresting those responsible for the recruitment,” Sheikh Omar said.

Coast provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli said police have information which will lead to the reduction of the number of youths being recruited.

“We have summoned different people, including Imams, who have given us vital information,” the officer said.

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