Revealed: The faces behind recurrent terror attacks in Northern, Coastal Kenya

Maalim Ayman, Mohamud Abdi Aden alias Mohamed Yare, Ramadhan Kioko alias Pinj alias Abdu Nuseiba and Abdullahi Bulati alias Abdullahi Banati alias Mustafa belong to one of the militia’s most lethal fighter wings known as Jaysh Ayman.

Four Al-Shabaab terrorists are behind the recurrent attacks in parts of northern and coastal Kenya, the Nation has learnt.

Maalim Ayman, Mohamud Abdi Aden alias Mohamed Yare, Ramadhan Kioko alias Pinj alias Abdu Nuseiba and Abdullahi Bulati alias Abdullahi Banati alias Mustafa belong to one of the militia’s most lethal fighter wings known as Jaysh Ayman.

The four are among five wanted terrorists that the National Police Service (NPS) recently declared armed and dangerous as it appealed to the public to share any information about their whereabouts to aid their capture.

According to intelligence reports seen by the Nation, the four have been at the forefront of attacks in the Boni forest.

Maalim is the head of the Al-Shabaab’s Jaysh Ayman wing operating within the Lacta belt area. He is responsible for attacks within Boni where a multi-agency security operation has been ongoing since September 2015.

The unit is also behind the June 2014 Mpeketoni attack and the June 2015 Baure Kenya Defence Forces base invasion. He is also linked to the January 2020 Manda Bay airfield attack.

Recently, the US government announced a Sh1.2 billion bounty for any information leading to Maalim’s arrest.

On the other hand, Mohamud was previously a resident of Garissa and Nairobi’s Fedha estate before travelling to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab in 2013. He is believed to be among those coordinating attacks in Boni Forest, frustrating construction of the Lapsset access road and other state projects.

Kioko is from the Majengo area in Nairobi. He was recruited into violent extremism by Ahmed Iman, a former Al-Shabaab leader who was responsible for propaganda and recruitment of Kenyan youth from the Majengo area.

The intelligence report says he joined Al-Shabaab in 2008 and was part of the team that conducted attacks on the Baure security camp in June 2015. He is also part of the team deployed to carry out attacks in Boni.

Bulati is a commander of Al-Shabaab militants also deployed to Boni. He hails from Ngumu village in Tana River County. He is linked to numerous criminal and terror activities including poaching, mining and supply of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used on routes connecting Lamu and Garissa counties.

He is allegedly behind the recent Al-Shabaab activities within Ziwa La Taa, Mlima wa Faru, Mambo Sasa and Bodhei areas in Lamu.

Lapsset fate

The fate of the Sh17.9 billion Lamu-Ijara-Garissa Lapsset corridor access road remains unknown as construction workers, civilians and security officers, among others, continue to lose their lives in attacks.

The most recent attack was on Tuesday where one person died while two KDF soldiers and four civilians were badly injured. A fuel tanker was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) from the front, killing one occupant on the spot. The second car, a tipper, was hit from the rear and the other was a pick-up that was burnt down.

Last week, a roadside explosive killed three Kenya National Highways Authority engineers after their vehicle hit an IED in Bura East. 

In December, about six kilometres from a Lapsset project construction site in Bura East, Garissa County, a vehicle was hit by an RPG after missing a roadside explosive. Two people, a police officer and a civilian died. 

Apart from the 257km Lamu-Ijara-Garissa stretch, there’s also the 113km Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga road and the 83km Ijara-Sanghailu-Hulugho section, all of which cut through the terror-prone Boni forest.

The entire project is under the China Communications Construction Company.

An official in charge of the project who talked to the Nation on condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the contractor said: “Our construction equipment worth millions of shillings have been destroyed by the Al-Shabaab who have kept appearing and attacking our construction sites and killing our casual labourers. We can’t keep risking our lives anymore.” 

Other engineers who also spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons revealed the threats they face and the reasons why Kenyans continue working at the sites.

“The jobs pay well. We have categories and each has a different pay. An engineer is paid more than Sh100,000 while mechanics, drivers and others are paid between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000,” a source said.

According to another employee, clan rivalries and fair sharing of job opportunities with the locals greatly contributes to the threat of attacks.

“If the locals are given a good percentage, my guess is that the attacks would not be as rampant as they are. There are area residents who have gone to school and are experienced but see outsiders being given the jobs.”