Trader linked to arms shipment to Shabaab arrested in Somalia

Zakariya Kamala Sufi Abashiekh, aka Sakaria Kamal. His family says he went missing on September 5.

For over three weeks, the family and friends of Zakariya Kamala Sufi Abashiekh, a Mombasa trader linked to illegal supply of weapons to Somalia, were concerned about his whereabouts.

His disappearance on September 5, pushed his family to head to court demanding that he be produced by police whom they claimed were behind his abduction.

The mystery surrounding his disappearance heightened last Friday, after Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) announced his arrest.

“NISA has apprehended Sakaria Kamal, better known as Saki (sp.), who held utmost significance as the individual responsible for procuring weaponry and explosives from foreign sources solely to arm the Kharijite adversary and inflict harm upon the innocent Somali people,” a statement through the NISA’s social media pages said.

Questions now abound as to how the businessman, 28, was captured in Somalia since details produced in court and additional information obtained by The Nation showed that he had been abducted by unknown people within Mombasa town.

The man NISA claims to have nabbed as he was preparing to disappear and hide in areas still controlled by Al-Shabaab, was on September 5, 2023, reportedly abducted in Kenya.

Prior to his family taking the matter to court, a missing person alert was issued by human rights organisations which stated that he was last seen in Mombasa town centre.

The Nation exclusively obtained footage from sources close to the investigation, who said it was from the moment when his vehicle was surrounded by unknown men at Posta area along Makadara Street in Mombasa. The source of the video cannot be revealed due to the sensitivity of the matter.

In the video, more than six well-built men using two unmarked white Land Cruiser vehicles are involved in the daylight abduction which took less than one minute. However, it was not easy to identify the people in the video.

In the midst of the action, a double cabin pickup is seen close by, seemingly being used in hiding members of the public from witnessing what was happening.

Three men jumped out of the classic Toyota Land Cruiser J70; one dressed in a red t-shirt, a khaki short and black sport shoes, the other in grey cap, jacket, grey jeans and black sport shoes and the other in a shirt, short and dark sports shoes. They are seen walking towards a white car which Mr Abashiekh was driving.

The man in a cap then walks to the driver’s door of the vehicle Mr Abashiekh was in and opens it before the suspect is seen stepping out. He was dressed in a light-green t-shirt.

The other person in a red t-shirt walks to the rear side of the vehicle, opening the car boot.

They later throw him into the white Land Cruiser, someone else takes over the wheels of his car and traffic goes back to normal.

The trader was out on a Sh1 million bail after he was charged on suspicion of shipping weapons illegally to Mogadishu. He was scheduled to appear in Shanzu Court on September 22.

When he was arraigned in May, the government expressed concern that for him to be safe, it would be best to keep him in custody due to continuous threats he was receiving from unidentified people in his home country.

Last week, the family’s lawyer Jared Magolo petitioned the High Court in Mombasa to order police to produce the businessman.  He said that the family had made visits in various police stations within the Coast region but they had not managed to find him.

“I have made enquiries and visited the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) offices at the regional headquarters but he is nowhere to be found and the officers are not giving any information,” said Mr Magolo, in a petition filed before Justice Ann Ong’injo.

Justice Ong’injo gave the state two weeks to respond to the application.

The businessman allegedly assisted in shipping the military hardware from China to be delivered to Al-Shabaab in Somalia before the items were seized.

He was initially arrested on April 28 at Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa. He was then taken to Shanzu court for a detention order while investigations into his involvement in shipping and delivering the items to the militants were ongoing.

In an affidavit submitted to the Shanzu court, the state alleged that the businessman had purchased military equipment from China on behalf of Al-Shabaab and facilitated its transportation to Somalia.

The seized shipment at Mogadishu port included five advanced JS crop drones capable of carrying 10 litres of liquid up to 500 metres above sea level, covering an area of 10 hectares.

Additionally, rifle scopes, materials for military uniforms, canvas for tents, night vision goggles, swimming goggles, voice recording pens, spy goggles and watches, military grade two-way radios, helmets, ghillie suits (camouflage), portable solar panels, torches, and batteries were found.

The state, through the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), requested legal assistance from both Somalia and China.

On May 19, the Somali government announced the seizure of the weapons cache at the port and airport in Mogadishu. 

The weapons were concealed in containers disguised as legitimate goods. Following the seizure, the Somali government arrested 10 individuals connected to a smuggling network.

The Somali’s intelligence said that they were planning to charge him over the same.

“He has been under surveillance by NISA for some time, and finally, NISA successfully apprehended him just as he was preparing to disappear and seek out an elusive hideout of the Al-Shabaab factions within Somalia,” the statement by NISA read.

Showing commitment that it was out to deal with terrorism, NISA said that it will go on pursuing individuals who associate themselves with the same and also “advocate for the oppression and violence against the Somali population, both within and beyond our borders.”