Police officers at the Kenya-Somalia border let in five Al-Shabaab suicide bombers in February this year after receiving bribes, a new United Nations report says.
The report lays bare how Kenyan security forces routinely accept cash bribes from as low as Ksh2,000 ($20) from terror militants to wave them through.
The Somalia Report 2018, released on Tuesday by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), paints a rather disturbing picture of the misplaced loyalties of some of the security officers Kenya has deployed to protect itself, and reveals, for the first time, how the Somalia-based militants are routinely allowed to cross over to Kenya to kill and maim.
For instance, an investigation into a foiled attack in February this year revealed that Al-Shabaab operatives crossed the Kenya-Somalia border five times in three months, detected but unobstructed, by giving $20 bribes to security forces.
Four of the five rifles seized by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit during an operation to foil an attack on key installations in Nairobi had been imported by Somalia’s Federal Government in 2013 following the partial lifting of the arms embargo under United Nations Security Council resolution 2093, the report shows.
Police had, during a routine patrol in Merti, Isiolo, in February this year, arrested two suspected Al-Shabaab operatives — Abdimajit Hasan Adan and Mohammed Nanne Osman — as they drove a vehicle laden with bombs intended for a complex attack in Nairobi, which the UN says would have been the most significant Al-Shabaab attack outside Somalia since the Garissa University College massacre of April 2015.
The UN notes that, in all of Adan’s and Nanne’s numerous journeys back and forth across the porous Kenya-Somalia border, they seemed not to encounter any resistance with Kenyan security forces manning the border.
If they did, they did not reveal that information to the interrogating officers in Nairobi after they were arrested.
“Where encounters are mentioned, they are in the context of either paying or witnessing bribes to security forces on both sides of the border," the report notes.
"No mention is made in Abdimajit Adan’s statement to APTU of being challenged by border security while bringing either vehicle (KBM200D or KCL621K) from Kenya into Somalia and back.”
Adan used Ksh600,000 ($6,000) to purchase a 2003 Mitsubishi Airtrek, registration number KBM200D, at a car dealership in Nairobi’s Lavington neighbourhood. On February 1, according to GPS and mobile phone data, he left Nairobi for Somalia with the vehicle, accompanied by Mohammed Nanne and Mbarak Abdi Huka, alias Sa’ad.
In Merti, Isiolo, Adan stopped to pick up a man named Ahmed 'Balaa' and another Al-Shabaab operative known to the group only by the name Said.
On February 4, the five Al-Shabaab operatives crossed into Somalia at El Wak without interference from police or border officials and reached the Somali town of El Adde the following day.
The car remained in the outskirts of El Adde for about a week, between February 5 and 13th, and investigators believe that it was during this time that the explosive devices were fitted into its chassis.
On the evening of February 13, the five departed El Adde for Kenya, crossing the border between 6am and 7am the following day.
The UN Monitoring Group estimates that the whole operation cost Al-Shabaab about $50,000 which included the purchase of two vehicles, weapons and explosives.
The arms cache included five Type 56-2 assault rifles, 36 magazines of ammunition, and 36 hand grenades. The Type 56-2 is a Chinese variant of the Russian AK-47 assault rifle which was the weapon of choice by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and has been regularly used by militants in the Middle East.
“The plot provides an apt illustration of the nexus between corruption and insecurity," authors of the UN report note. "Police statements from the arrested Al-Shabaab operatives show that they were able to pass with little interference back and forth across the porous Kenya-Somalia border, facilitated by bribes to various security forces officials on both sides."
Plotting another attack
The UN also expresses concern that some of the operatives involved in the Nairobi plot and who managed to escape from the security forces, may still be at large in Kenya, and probably plotting another attack.
“Several known members of the plot escaped arrest, and the attacking team — which likely comprised five individuals, on the basis of the number of captured rifles — may still be at large in Kenya,” the report states.
It accuses mobile service provider Safaricom of declining to share information on communication details of the suspected terrorists.
In the 156-page report, the group also expresses concerns that the terrorist gang remains in a strong financial position despite ramped-up aerial strikes against it.
“Al-Shabaab is likely generating a significant budgetary surplus; money is not a limiting factor in its ability to wage its insurgency. How Al-Shabaab channels excess revenue remains under investigation by the Monitoring Group,” it states.
Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet declined to comment on the bribery allegations, saying he was yet to read the report. Internal Security minister Fred Matiang'i was not available for comment.