Agony of mother who has lost four children to Shabaab

Rukiyyah Abdu

Rukiyyah Abdu during the interview with the Nation. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The 60-year-old single mother has become an anti-terror ambassador.
  • Ms Abdu believes the Ministry of Education can protect many young Kenyans from the clutches of terror.

It’s stressful for a mother to lose a child to anything, but it’s a living nightmare to lose four children to a terror group. 

It’s a bitter pill 60-year-old Rukiyyah Abdu from Mombasa has had to swallow after four of her children slipped out of their home to join Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab.

The single mother would not want to see any other parent suffer the same fate, so she has become an anti-terror ambassador of sorts, encouraging people to take interest in their children’s lives and to co-operate with the government to stop radicalisation of the youth. 

Speaking at Muslim for Human Rights offices in Mombasa, Ms Abdu believes the Ministry of Education can protect many young Kenyans from the clutches of terror by introducing an anti-terrorism unit in the school curriculum.

“It is not easy walking around and eating while not knowing what your children are going through. I would give anything to have my children back,” she told the Nation.

A mother of 11, she revealed that her fifth, ninth, tenth and eleventh-born children were lured to terrorism.

“Maybe my children would be with me today if someone had talked to them,” she said.

Ms Abdu said her 17-year-old daughter and ninth-born ran away from home in 2016 to be an Al-Shabaab bride.

Her stepbrother helped the reclusive underage girl to secure a passport, identification card and travel documents that helped her cross to Somalia. 

“My daughter, Saadia, did not have any friends, but she was a good girl. I was surprised one day when I got up in the morning and could not find her in bed next to me as we always shared the same bed. Her stepbrother, who had also slept at my home, was also missing,” she said.

Ms Abdu says a week after Saadia’s disappearance, her (Saadia’s) father received a phone call requesting him to give consent so that Saadia can get married.

“The call was from a Kadhi in Somalia. When Saadia’s father refused to give his consent and asked her to return home, she got angry and vowed we would never see her again,” she narrated.

Escaped death

Ms Abdu said her daughter called her nine months later using a strange number asking for forgiveness, saying she was eight months pregnant.

“After witnessing the tough conditions in Somalia, my daughter regretted her decision but she could not return because she feared the Kenya police as well as the al-Shabaab militants would come after her,” Ms Abdu revealed. “A few months later, she called again to tell me that she had lost her husband.” 

In 2013, her fifth-born son, Salim Abdi, escaped death narrowly after the vehicle he was traveling in was ambushed by unknown assailants and sprayed with bullets, killing the three other occupants, including Ibrahim Rogo.

“After the incident, my son went to stay with a relative in Malindi, but I was so worried for his safety that I requested him to come back home. All this time he denied any involvement with al-Shabaab,” she said.

The truth would, however, come to light in September last year, when 17 police officers raided Ms Abdu’s house.

“I came to realise my son was involved in terror after he was arrested but has since reformed,” she said about her son, who is currently being held at Shimo la Tewa prison. 

Next to join the terror underworld was her tenth-born son, Osama Abdi, who took off one day without bidding anyone goodbye. He was 18 years.

A year later, Ms Abdu received the devastating call from a strange number informing her of her son’s death.

Towards the end of last year, Ms Abdu got yet another a call from police officers that her lastborn, Abdul Satar Abdi, had been arrested in Mandera while trying to sneak out of the country.He was only 17.

He was later released on condition that he would be reporting to a police station every Monday of a new month. 

“I talked to my son and he told me that he was going to work to mend his ways. He was okay the whole of this month and even the officers handling his case were impressed with his transformation. Later, he told me that he wanted to get married but I told him to settle first. Towards the end of September this year, he called again to say he was already married and was planning to visit his wife’s family in Mariakani in Kilifi County. That was the last time I heard from him,” she said.

She accuses the police of being behind his disappearance.