On the evening of August 18, seven armed men accosted Mombasa businessman Abdulhakim Salim Sagar and bundled him into a waiting Toyota Hilux double-cabin pickup car before speeding off.
Mr Sagar, 40, had just attended prayers at a Mosque in Kuze, Old Town. To date, his whereabouts remain a mystery. Five days later, Coast regional security committee chairman John Elungatta revealed that the terror suspect had been arrested by police and was assisting with investigations.
The police later announced more arrests using the information the businessman had provided. Days went by but the suspect was not produced in court as required by law despite a promise by the security bosses that he would be arraigned.
However, the matter took a new twist last Friday when Coast Regional Police Commander Manase Musyoka differed with Mr Elungata in a sworn affidavit denying that the father of four was arrested by the police or was in police custody.
The regional police boss said the only information he is aware of concerning the matter is a missing-persons report circulated by Central Police Station, Mombasa, requesting all police stations across the country to assist in tracing Mr Sagar. The signal, Mr Musyoka said, has not returned any response.
“At no time was Mr Sagar arrested or detained by the police,” he said, adding that the suspect has been religiously reporting to the investigating officer once a month since being released from custody in 2018.
Mr Musyoka added that there was no new detail or complaint lodged with the police to warrant fresh investigations, arrest or detention of Mr Sagar.
“I wish to state that I never informed the media that the police arrested and detained Sagar. The claims that the police arrested him are without merit,” he told Mombasa High Court Judge Anne Ong’injo.
Mr Musyoka was responding to a case filed by Mr Sagar’s family, in which they want the police compelled to produce him dead or alive. Mr Faris Salim Sagar filed the case, claiming that his brother was arrested by police officers from the Anti-Terror Police Unit.
Mr Musyoka said the owner of the vehicle, registration number KBQ 035C, which was allegedly used to abduct Mr Sagar, is not yet known. The vehicle has not been recovered to date.
“I request that the petitioner be directed to provide witnesses ... to assist the police with their investigations on the whereabouts of Mr Sagar. This court may also invite any other independent body to conduct investigations on Sagar’s disappearance,” he said.
Through lawyer Mbugua Murithi, the family accused the police of failing to provide details of the man’s whereabouts. Mr Murithi said the response failed to address the pertinent issue that the family has raised in the case.
“The affidavit by Mr Musyoka is very ominous on the fate of the subject (Sagar). It is a denial, it suggests that the subject has disappeared, that is the long and short of the document,” he said and accused the police of shielding the owner of the vehicle used in the abduction.
Mr Murithi told the court that he is ready to swear an affidavit to confirm that Mr Elungata told the family, in their several visits to his office, that the suspect was in their custody and would be produced in court.
“Even Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki is ready to swear an affidavit to confirm that Mr Elungata told us the police were holding Mr Sagar,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Makuto, appearing for the National Police Service, reiterated its official stand that Mr Sagar had not been arrested and neither was he in custody. Mr Elungata and Mr Musyoka had been summoned to explain the whereabouts of Mr Sagar. Mr Elungata, however, did not appear as Mr Makuto said he was on duty elsewhere.
According to Faris, seven plainclothes police officers confronted his brother and arrested him.
Mr Sagar is said to have been in the company of his two children when he was arrested. The family claims the 40-year-old had received threats before his abduction.
Mr Sagar had an ongoing terror-related case at the Shanzu Law Courts since 2018. Since his release on bond, he had been reporting to the investigating officer once a month. In 2018 he was charged with possessing terror-related materials on his mobile phone and his case is pending. According to Mr Murithi, Mr Sagar’s two accomplices, with whom he was charged in 2018, disappeared the same way and have never been seen since.
His disappearance adds to the long list of men who have disappeared without a trace after being arrested by people their relatives say were police officers.
Missing Voices Kenya, a group of human rights organisations, says five cases of enforced disappearance and 13 cases of extra-judicial killings have been recorded between 2019 and 2021.
Last Wednesday, Somali scholar Abdiwahab Sheikh was abducted in Nairobi. By yesterday, his whereabouts remained unknown, with police saying they are pursuing his abductors. Others are Yassir Ahmed who disappeared in Lamu, Alfani Juma (Mombasa) and Abdisatar Islam (Mombasa).
Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) deputy national chairman Shariff Khitamy, members of the Somali community and local leaders have termed the trend as worrying and called for investigations into the abduction of people suspected to have terror links.
“We are appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene,” said Mr Mohamed Ibrahim, chairman of the Coast Somali Community. Members of the Somali community said families of kidnap victims have been left distraught
“Why aren’t they taken to court? Why abduct them? Where are they?’’ Mr Sagar posed while urging security agencies to reveal their whereabouts.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said parliament will bring a censure motion against those in charge of security next week.
“If we continue keeping quiet, we will be condoning an injustice. The professor’s abduction is similar to that of Sagar and we must end this. I personally called Mr Elungatta who confirmed that Mr Sagar was in their custody but he has now changed tune. People are losing faith in the police,” he said.
“Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the President should remember that [the kidnap victims] are also Kenyans.” He said it was worrying that crimes were being committed by security agencies.
“We want the state to arraign Prof Abdulwahab and Sagar in court. Kenya is not Colombia where such incidents are common, we have laws let’s follow our constitution. We want to know the whereabouts of those arrested in the Likoni botched terror attack,” Mr Faki said.