Shabaab ‘brides’ speak for the first time since arrest three years ago
Two women accused of being members of Al-Shabaab have told a Mombasa court how they ended up in police cells before being charged with terrorism.
Ummulkheir Sadri Abdalla said she left Tanzania to seek internship at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) after breaking for a four-month vacation.
She said that at the time of arrest, she was a third year student of medicine at the International University of Africa in Sudan but was in Kenya for a brief internship programme.
She said she left the university aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight and landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on March 23, 2015.
“Upon landing at the JKIA, I was taken to the Immigration department for clearance. I then boarded a taxi to River Road where I spent the night in a lodge,” she said.
Ms Abdalla, Ms Khadija Abubakar Abdulkadir and Ms Halima Adan have denied organising a meeting in Nairobi to plan on how to cross into Somalia to join the Shabaab militants and conspiracy with their accomplices abroad to carry out terrorist acts in the country.
They have also denied 20 terror-related charges including being in possession of videos and pictures of former and current Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri who were known for organising and committing terror activities.
The prosecution said the suspects committed the offence in El-Wak, on the Kenya-Somalia boarder.
In her unsworn testimony, Ms Abdalla said she had in her possession an advanced Sumsang mobile phone, a laptop, passport, student ID and university documents which she was going to present to the hospital for the internship consideration.
She said after arriving at the lodge, she stayed indoors and left for KNH the following day.
“When I want back to KNH, I waited for the chief executive officer for hours but she didn’t come. I was told to come back the following day so I decided to return to my residence,” she said.
The suspect told the court that as she prepared to board a vehicle back to her hotel, she was approached by people in plain clothes who later identified themselves as police officers.
“They demanded that I produce my identification documents while threatening me. I was reluctant to produce what they had demanded since I didn’t know them, I was cautious because I knew Nairobi was full of gangsters,” she said.
Ms Abdalla said as she was still thinking of what to do, she was arrested and bundled into a vehicle and when she inquired reason for her arrest, she was told that she would be informed later.
She said the vehicle was driven off at high speed and since she was not familiar with Nairobi, she couldn’t tell where she was being taken.
“It was a long ride. I [later] found myself in a police cell. I was told that I was planning to join terror groups. It was then that I was grilled and informed that I will be charged with being a terrorist,” she told the court.
Another suspect, Ms Abubakar, said she was picked from her hostel in Thika Town by officers from the Anti-Terror Police Unit and driven to Mombasa where she was later charged with being a member of a terror group.
She said she had a loud bang at her door at 10 pm in the night that was followed by threats of breaking in should she hesitate to open the door.
“When I opened the door, I saw people armed with guns. They identified themselves as police officers. I was told I am under arrest but would be informed the reason later,” she said.
The suspect who hails from Malindi in Kilifi County said at the time of arrest, she was studying pharmacy at Mount Kenya University’s Thika campus. She had been there for two years.
Ms Abubakar said detectives took all her belongings including her phone, laptop, student and national ID, bank slips and other school documents.
“They covered my face so I couldn’t figure out where I was. I can only remember being driven for a long time. When they finally took off the hood from my face, I realised I was at a police station in Mombasa. I was forced to sign an inventory that they had prepared,” she told Chief Magistrate Evans Makori.
She said the detectives demanded to know the whereabouts of her farther and threatened her with unspecified punishment should she refuse to comply.
“They ordered me to reveal where my father was and warned that I would suffer on his behalf if I declined to answer them,” she said, adding that while in police custody, she was not allowed to communicate with anyone including her parents.
She said she cannot continue with her education since her name has been struck off the university’s student portal because of the terror case against her.
The suspects asked the court to set them free, saying they are suffering and yet none of the eight witnesses have linked them to the charges against them.
They have also told the court that some of the items listed in the inventory were not recovered from them.
The suspects, through their lawyers Hamisi Mwadzogo and Chacha Mwita, have also asked the court to conclude their cases soon enough so that, even if they are will be jailed, they will have opportunity to spend some of their hey days with their families at home after serving their sentences.
Ms Adan did not give her evidence as she said she was not mentally stable to defend herself following her arrest and detention shortly after the court ruled that they had a case to answer.
The case comes up for defence hearing on July 2, 2018.