How US Embassy bombing changed government perspective on Lamu, Coast

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For years, Lamu and the larger parts of the Coast region had been neglected by the government in many ways. Roads, electricity connections, construction of roads and other amenities were rare.

This enabled opportunists to venture there and take advantage of the situation and convince the majority of locals to see the government and non-locals as enemies.

One of the opportunists was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.

Investigations by government agencies have shown Fazul was a Comorian-Kenyan member of al-Qaeda and the leader of its presence in East Africa.

Fazul was born in Moroni, Comoros Islands and had Kenyan as well as Comorian citizenship.

He spoke French, Swahili, Arabic, English, and Comorian.

He was born on December 25, 1974, and was killed on June 8, 2011, in Somalia.

He also used the names Abdallah Mohammed Fazul, Abu Seif al-Sudani.

Before 1998, Fazul had made Faza in Lamu his adopted home from where he plotted terror and recruited militants to Somalia using a false fishing company and football club.
Here he convinced locals who adopted him as their son and even made him an Islamic teacher.

He taught and convinced them that the national government and non-locals were enemies.

He could tell them to fight government agencies and non-locals.

He married local businessman Mohamed Kubwa half-sister, Amina.

Kubwa and his father, Kubwa Mohamed, a Lamu county councilman owned property in the town of Siyu, a famous centre of Islamic scholarship near the border with Somalia, a little-monitored zone where al Qaeda members slipped easily in and out of the country.

Fazul taught at an Islamic school in Lamu, using the name Abdul Karim.

He was also close to the late Islamic preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed who was a cousin of the Kubwas.

And with these among other connections, he used them to roam in the area freely moving to Malindi and Mombasa where he made inroads making friends.

The gospel was the same, according to security agencies’ findings- the government and non-locals are bad and should be fought.

He also recruited militants to Somalia using a false fishing company and football club.

Like many suspected al-Qaeda operatives, he was able to exploit the region’s lax law enforcement and porous borders to move around and avoid detection.

“He knew what he wanted in terms of turning locals hostile to some parties and sympathetic to terrorists,” said one of the men who profiled Fazul.

Fazul’s mission and target was Nairobi.

His lieutenants were in the city and Tanzania ready for a mission they were to be told.

After the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998, which killed 224 people, the US accused him of involvement and issued a $5m reward for information leading to capture.

In 2002, Fazul was reported to have been put in charge of al-Qaeda operations in East Africa.

That year, he was blamed for the bombing of a beach resort Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Mombasa, which left 13 people dead, and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger aircraft.

In 2007, he survived a US airstrike on the southern Somali coastal village of Hayo, near the town of Ras Kamboni.

He is thought to have headed home to the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean immediately after the attacks, but as FBI agents tried to trace him there, he boarded a plane to the Gulf and disappeared without a trace.

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point military academy in New York then obtained a passport of Fazul issued in 1990 in Moroni and renewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1996.

It showed he travelled to Mauritius in 1990, to Tanzania in 1994 and 1995, to Sudan on several occasions in 1995, to Yemen in 1995, and to Kenya in 1993 and several times in 1994 and 1995.

It shows he was also a resident of Pakistan for one year in 1991-1992.

The bombing of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania prompted authorities to research Fazul.

They realized he had camped and interacted with many in the Coast for as long as he planned his terror activities.

According to profilers who worked on his case, Fazul told locals they had been neglected by the authorities and needed to seek alternative leadership.

This prompted a new approach from authorities on Lamu, which extends into the Indian Ocean with Faza, Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kipungani.

The area acquired new security importance when authorities learnt the islets had become a haven or conduit for al Shabaab and other preceding terror groups.

And since then, the region has seen a gradual investment in many areas including the newly built port, roads, schools, electricity and other social amenities.

The promulgation of the 2010 Constitution came as a blessing to both locals and government as it emerged as one of the ways to show locals they are part of Kenya.

The government has turned its attention to the region to ensure it is in tandem with other areas in terms of developments.

This came albeit late as many people have been killed in the region by terror-related incidents.

The places include Mpeketoni where more than 100 people were killed in 2014 by terrorists.

The military is leading other agencies in various development activities as part of efforts to tame the terror gospel.

Lamu and other coastal regions have been affected by terrorism, which has led to less development and fears among many.

The areas are near the Kenya-Somalia border, which makes it easier for al Shabaab to attack at will.

Boni Forest in Lamu is an operation zone as the national government has since 2015 conducted a multi-agency security exercise dubbed Linda Boni, which is aimed at flushing out al Shabaab militants believed to be hiding there.

Research by government security agencies says 30 per cent of the country’s security problems are traced to the porous Somalia border often penetrated by terrorists.

The terrorists have also been attacking northern regions affecting operations at large amid the government push for more development projects.

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