KENYANS with the help of Tanzanian nationals are reportedly responsible for the kidnapping of two women in Manda and Lamu island, the Star has established. The kidnappers are mostly recruits of the Al Shabaab and al Itihaad al Islamiya, rival militia groups based at Ras Kamboni in the Lamu area.
The abductions are intended to sabotage the tourism sector and simultaneously make money. Neither militia has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnap of Judith Tebbut from the Kiwayu Safari Resort last month and the weekend abduction of French national Marie Dedieu from Manda Island.
An al Itihaad spokesman denied they were involved in the kidnap but admitted that they were holding Judith Tebbut. “She has been here since she was brought in. She has been unwell because she has refused to eat and only takes water,” said Abdirizak Ahmed. He added that al Itihaad was not involved in kidnapping Marie Dedieu but he expected her captors would deliver her to them in exchange of money.
A source from Coast said the kidnap of the Frenchwoman was an inside job using Kenyans familiar with the place and the hostage. “They were looking for someone who can earn them a huge ransom,” added the source. Marie Dedieu, 66, was kidnapped on Saturday morning from her villa in Ras Kitau opposite Shela.
Judith Tebbut, 56, was kidnapped and her husband killed a few weeks ago in the archipelago north of Lamu. Dedieu was brought to Kismayu by Kenyans involved in her kidnap. The source told the Star that she was in “a very bad condition”. “They brought a really sick woman and handed her over to people who have been waiting. She is still alive but she looks like she can’t survive any longer without some kind of medication,” said the source who operates inside Somalia.
The Frenchwoman was spotted on Sunday afternoon being held by 10 heavily armed militiamen under a canvas tent four kilometres from Ras Kamboni. An airborne search team was in a private jet owned by foreigners and flown by a pilot only identified as Bruno.
The team on the plane was led by Lamu East District Commissioner Pius Murugu; Kenya Wildlife Service warden Martin Nyongesa; officer in charge of Marine Police only identified as Wambua; and Kiunga assistant chief Omar Mohammed. The security personnel on the plane failed to coordinate with the Kenya Armed Forces on the ground to intercept them.
Yesterday, al Shabaab denied any involvement in the kidnappings. “We are not involved in any kidnappings that have been taking place in Kenya and neither is any of our soldiers. We should not be blamed for the crime. This is not us but another group which has nothing to do with the al Shabaab al Mujahideen. They could be some Kenyans we trained but are not working with us anymore. None of our soldiers have been given any directive to kidnap any foreign tourist,” said Muktar Robow, al Shabaab spokesperson.
Al Shabaab have been recruiting Kenyans to fight in Somalia. Two months ago, al Shabaab suffered a setback when Harun Fazul, al Qaeda leader in Somalia, was killed in Mogadishu. Yesterday, Coast police boss Aggrey Adoli said that youths are paid money to provide information to the Somali militia before and after their attacks.
“How is it possible that strangers come to the island and cause havoc? It only happens if there is coordination between them and the attackers. We have to get to the root of this,” said Adoli. “How could the al-Shabaab manage to attack and kidnap the Frenchwoman and manoeuvre all the way to Ishakan? That is a stretch of more than 100 kilometres without being detected,” said another police source.
Adoli said efforts are being made to rescue Marie Dedieu. He said the locals have supported efforts to boost community policing. Anti Terrorism Police Unit have in the recent months arrested several al Shabaab suspects crossing from Somalia. Yesterday, an al Itihaad source asked the Star to find out whether the Mombasa Republican Council was involved in the kidnap.
The MRC has distanced itself from claims that its affiliates, former recruits of al-Shabaab, are responsible for the Lamu attacks. The MRC secretary general Randu Nzai said, “It could be true that Kenyans were involved. Apart from the fact that it cannot be any of our members, it should also be kept in mind that we as Coastals are not Kenyans so this has nothing to do with us.
They should target the right people.” Nzai even claimed the government could have played a part in the abductions. He said the MRC cannot “take in” former recruits of al Shabaab as members since they cannot match the salaries they received during training. “We cannot take our youths and engage them in such activities. Kenya should take responsibility and see a way out of the mess,” said Nzai.