Police probe Kenyan trader 'for importing weapons for Shabaab terrorists'

al-Shabaab terrorist group

Members of the al-Shabaab terrorist group after giving themselves up to forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia in Garsale in September 2012.

Photo credit: Mohamed Abdiwahab | AFP

A businessman is being investigated in connection with two illegal shipments of military equipment and explosives seized at Mogadishu port last month.

The State alleges that Mr Zakariya Kamal Sufi Abashiek bought military equipment from China on behalf of al-Shabaab and facilitated its shipment to Somalia.

Documents seen by Nation indicate that the items seized at Mogadishu port include five high specification JS crop drones with the capacity to carry 10 litres of liquid 500 metres above sea level and cover 10 hectares, rifle scopes, rolls of material for making military uniforms, and 3,000 metres of canvas packed in 30-metre rolls for making tents.

Other items include 18 night vision goggles and swimming goggles, 18 voice recording pens, 18 spy goggles and watches, military grade two-way radios and helmets, ghille suits (camouflage), portable solar panels and 20 torches and batteries.

Following the interception of the cargo, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), through its Mombasa office, has requested the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to issue a legal assistance request to enable the ODPP's senior counsel and investigating officers from the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) to visit China and Somalia to collect evidence and statements.

Somalia's State Minister for Defence, Mr Mohamed Ali Haga, announced the seizure on May 19, saying the agency had discovered the cache of weapons at Mogadishu's port and airport.

The cargo of military hardware and explosives was discovered hidden in containers disguised as legitimate goods, Mr Haga said, adding that more weapons were also seized at Mogadishu's Aden Ade International Airport, leading to the arrest of 10 people linked to a smuggling network.

According to documents filed in court in Shanzu, Mr Kamal was arrested on April 28 at Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa by ATPU officers on charges of being an agent of a terrorist group, before being transferred to Kilindini Port Police. On May 2, he was taken to Shanzu Magistrate's Court where ATPU was granted 10 days detain him pending conclusion of the investigations.

Before his arrest, ATPU received information in mid-April that Mr Kamal was providing logistical support to the al-Shabaab terrorist organisation in Somalia and was in the process of transporting a suspicious container from China to Somalia.

Information gathered from his mobile phone and his confession to a multi-agency team revealed that he had sent container number MSMU826114145G1 to a shipping company bound for Somalia. This is the same container that Somali authorities intercepted and found the military gear.

Corpora Gideon Wambua told the magistrate that investigations by a multi-agency security team revealed that Mr Kamal was involved in heinous crimes in Kenya and its environs and had associates in Somalia and China who were yet to be arrested.

He was also said to be in constant contact with an operative in Somalia, believed to be a member of the militant group.

The detective further said the accused facilitated the procurement of military equipment from China in collaboration with al-Shabaab associates in Somalia. He allegedly used third party online payment platforms such as WeChat and Alipay to pay for the equipment.

At the end of the 10-day period, ATPU returned to court and asked for a 16-day extension, which was granted. Mr Kamal is now facing charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and providing property for the commission of terrorist acts. State prosecutor Anthony Musyoka supported the application, arguing that the investigation was complicated because it involved three countries.

Investigators have also raised concerns about Mr Kamal's safety, claiming he has received threats from unknown individuals in Somalia and that he would be better protected in custody. The court also heard that Kamal's family had received similar threats. Investigators are examining his bank and M-Pesa accounts to follow the money trail.

However, Mr Kamal has denied the allegations, claiming that the state had not provided any evidence that he was a member of any terrorist organisation.

He further stated that the ATPU had not produced any evidence linking him to previous terrorist incidents in the country as claimed by the authorities.

He admitted that he had sent a consignment from China to Somalia, but claimed that the items named by the state were not those he had supplied. He did not disclose these materials.

Mr Kamal said he had informed the ATPU about the threats, which have since stopped.

The state intends to obtain the shipping documents in order to prosecute Kamal, who was released on Sh1 million bail. He has surrendered his passport to the court and is required to report to the ATPU when required.

Both the prosecution and defence have agreed to his release while investigations continue.