Revealed: How police thwarted terrorist attack in Diani on New Year’s eve

Mombasa Old Town security

Police officers on February 28, 2022 patrol Ndia Kuu area in Mombasa Old Town.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

On New Year’s eve, police officers acting on intelligence arrested two people heading to Diani in Kwale County.

That decision could have saved Kenyans from a deadly attack.

Mr Musab Abdulnasir Kassim and Mistwah Abdulnasir Kassim are alleged to have been found with an Austrian-made Glock pistol, loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition.

It has now turned out that the two are terror suspects, who were on a mission to disrupt the New Year celebrations by launching a terrorist attack at a popular social joint in Diani.

Their arrest also led to the nabbing of Ms Aisha Abdalla Musa in Kizingo Mombasa, who police now say is linked to the two terror suspects who were on a deadly mission in the South Coast. 

Ms Musa was arrested on January 1, at around 5pm.

The three are now in custody helping the police with investigations.

According to an affidavit sworn by Anti-Terrorism Police Unit officer Japheth Yagan, Musab and Mistwah were on their way to meet other two unknown terror operatives in Diani when they were arrested on December 31 at around 9:21pm at the Likoni ferry mainland.

“There was intelligence information of an impending attack on a social entertainment joint in Diani during New Year’s eve,” Mr Yagan said in the affidavit.

While asking the court to give him more time to hold the three, Mr Yagan through prosecution counsel Yassir Mohamed said preliminary investigations have revealed that the suspects are also linked to a spate of robberies within Mombasa island.

“There is intelligence that the suspects disguise themselves as motorbike delivery riders in Mombasa town to advance their terror activities,” the prosecutor told Mombasa Senior Resident Magistrate Ritah Orora.

The court also heard that mobile phones recovered from the suspects have been forwarded to Cyber Forensic Laboratory for forensic analysis.

The firearm and the ammunition have also been forwarded to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters in Nairobi for ballistic examination.

“The time that has elapsed since the respondents were arrested is not sufficient to make any determination, therefore, necessitating an application for time to complete investigations before arriving at a decision on whether to charge the respondents or not,” he said.

The prosecutor told the court that the suspects were also found in possession of a substance suspected to be an illicit drug.

“I am investigating a case of being a member of a terrorist group, conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and being in possession of a firearm without holding a firearm certificate. We are yet to record statements from other key witnesses and make more arrests on the same,” said Mr Yagan.

In supporting the police application, Mr Mohamed told the court that the allegations against the respondents were very grave, therefore, the investigators need adequate time to get to the bottom of the crimes that the suspects were about to commit when they were arrested.

However, the respondents opposed the application, telling the court that the police have had enough time to conclude investigating the matter.

The suspects, through their advocate, maintained their innocence, rubbishing the allegations.

The magistrate, however, allowed the police to hold them for a week and either prefer charges against them or release them.
Their arrests come barely two weeks after detectives in Kwale arrested a terror suspect of Canadian origin Elias Abdulhamid.

Mr Abdulhamid was on December 14 arrested in Lunga Lunga while trying to sneak into the country without identification documents.

In a miscellaneous application filed before Kwale Chief Magistrate Lilian Lewa, the detectives alleged that Mr Abdulhamid was on transit to Somalia through the Kenya-Tanzania border to join Al-Shabaab militants when he was arrested.

His intention, the detectives say, was to join the militants to train and later carry out terrorist activities in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Intelligence gathered by the Kenyan detectives indicates that Mr Abdulhamid had been arrested in Egypt in 2019 while trying to join Isis terrorist group.

The detectives further disclosed that the suspect is believed to have also tried to enter the United States of America (US) illegally but was stopped.

According to documents filed in court, Mr Abdulhamid had confessed to the police of having been acquitted in the above cases for lack of evidence in Egypt and the US.

Also, the police had informed the court that the suspect had pleaded with them not to deport him to Canada, alleging that he was being sought there for terror-related activities.                                                                                         

The police had been given 20 days to finalise investigations, which involved verification of his identity, nationality and criminal records with Interpol, the Canadian High Commission in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopian authorities over his links to terrorism activities.

The anti-terror police also recommended checking his mental status after he incriminated himself by confessing to intending to travel to

Somalia to join al-Shabaab terrorist group.