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Kenya bomber’s journey offers cautionary tale of intelligence failures




The bomber who blew himself up outside a Nairobi hotel this month, launching an attack that killed 21 people, was already so well-known to Kenyan police that they had emblazoned his face across billboards under the slogan “WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE”.

Mahir Khalid Riziki was barely 20 when he joined a radical Islamist cell that assassinated police in his home town of Mombasa, officers said.

His mosque in the coastal Kenyan city funnelled recruits to the Somalia-based Islamist group al Shabaab, which claimed the January 15 attack in Nairobi.

Riziki, who was 25 when he died, fled after a deadly police raid on the mosque in 2014. His years as a fugitive shed light on the difficulties of tracking militant suspects across East Africa at a time when al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab is seeking to broaden its pool of recruits and carry out more attacks in other nations.

Borders are porous. Intelligence sharing is often ad hoc. Warnings may be too vague or too late.

Riziki’s journey spanned at least two East African nations that share borders with Kenya.

“After he disappeared, we monitored him to Tanzania, then later to Somalia, where he went quiet until he made a surprise appearance in the Dusit [hotel] attack,” a retired Kenyan counter-terrorism officer told Reuters.

Like others interviewed, he did not want to be identified discussing an ongoing investigation.

Kenyan authorities did not respond to queries about whether they had requested help tracking Riziki. But the retired officer said they had contacted Interpol, the international police network.

Interpol had no red notice – an international alert – for Riziki on its website. A spokesman declined to say why, citing a policy not to discuss specific cases. Tanzanian authorities also would not comment on Riziki’s case.

Somali intelligence officials told Reuters they usually received little information from Kenya. But they said they warned Kenya in November about a plot to attack an unknown target involving five men – the same number who attacked the Nairobi hotel and surrounding offices.

Kenya did not want to pay for information, one Somali official said, and it was not possible to get more details from sources within al Shabaab without money.

Slender, chisel-faced Riziki often prayed at Mombasa’s Musa mosque, a newly renovated building whose green and white minaret is surrounded by a jumble of small shops. The mosque was a hotbed of extremism in the lead-up to the 2014 raid, authorities said, although now the leadership has changed.

Kenyan police said Riziki was influenced by two of the mosque’s former imams, Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Abubakar Sharif, also known as Makaburi, who they said recruited for al Shabaab.

Rogo was shot dead in 2012, Sharif in 2014. Supporters blamed police. Police denied it.

Yusuf Mohammed, a 54-year-old shopkeeper, occasionally attended the mosque with Riziki. He said the young man was dazzled by its leaders, even as their extremism repelled more moderate Muslims.

“He with many other youth really idolised Rogo and loved his preachings,” Mohammed told Reuters. “They spoke about him all the time.”

Investigators believe Riziki met his recruiter, Ramadhan Hamisi Kufungwa, at the mosque.

Kafungwa is a “rising star in extremist circles” and has been linked to another plot in Kenya – a plan to kidnap foreign tourists over the 2014 Christmas holiday – said a Nairobi-based security analyst who has observed militant activity at the mosque for nearly a decade.


Riziki joined a gang targeting policemen, according to a summary of his file shared by Kenyan police. He took part in the killings of at least two officers in October 2014, the former Kenyan counter-terrorism officer said.

The next month, police raided the mosque. One officer died after his throat was cut during the operation. A suspected militant was killed, and 13 others were arrested. Riziki was there but escaped, the former officer said. He never returned, said Mohammed, the shopkeeper.

Investigators believe Riziki spent much of the following years in Tanzania. It’s not clear what he did there. Tanzanian police did not respond to requests for comment.

Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia did not do a good job sharing information on militants, according to an international official who worked on counter-terrorism in the region.

A former senior Somali intelligence official conceded that information sharing “is not always systematic” and often depends on personal relationships between officials.

“But it happens,” the official said, citing two examples where Kenyan authorities detained and extradited militants at Somalia’s request, despite the lack of a treaty between the two countries.

Young, Kenyan and on the run, Riziki made the ideal al Shabaab attacker, said Matt Bryden, who heads the Nairobi-based think-tank, Sahan Research.

“Al Shabaab is branching out; its profile now looks a lot more like al Qaeda in East Africa used to than the principally Somali organisation it was for many years,” he said.

Local recruits are less likely to attract suspicion in their home countries. But they also make al Shabaab vulnerable to infiltration – by foreign intelligence agencies and the group’s Islamic State rivals.

So these recruits are usually earmarked for suicide missions, the Somali intelligence official told Reuters.

The attackers spent several weeks late last year training in Boni forest, a thickly wooded area on the Kenyan side of the border where al Shabaab has carried out several attacks, including beheadings, said a Kenya security source and a Somali intelligence official.

Riziki had earlier entered Somalia, where the militants control territory which government forces cannot enter, making it hard to track him.

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency have also been hampered by infighting and personnel changes, insiders said. It has had three leaders in the past two years and been without a director general for the last four months.

Some Somali regional security agencies are reluctant to work with the central authorities because of political tensions between the central government and Somalia’s federal states, and because senior al Shabaab defectors hold prominent positions in the agency.

“It is full of double agents. We cannot work with them,” one Somali regional spymaster told Reuters.

A senior Somali intelligence official said his agency passed on a warning about a pending attack in Kenya in late November.

“We told them: five guys,” he said. “They want to attack in Nairobi or Mombasa, like a hotel, tourist attraction or church.”

But such warnings are common and difficult to act on without more detail. Riziki’s name was not mentioned, so he didn’t raise any alarms when he returned to Kenya on Jan. 13. Police said he went through the border town of El Wak and took a bus to Nairobi.

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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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