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How terror suspect beat Kenya police dragnet
Thursday, May 31, 2012
By Cyrus Ombati
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Appalling details have emerged on how wanted terror suspect Emrah Erdogan slipped through police dragnet in Nairobi and Garissa before heading to the Coast after Tuesday’s city explosion.
Sources reveal Erdogan is a trained gun handler and has been to Somalia where he joined the militant group Al Shabaab in fi ghting Kenya Defence Forces in Afmadhow.
Police are unsure if he is a German or Turkish national, as his travel documents show, but they believe they are both fake.
“We have run details on his passport through the global system and it shows nothing, which means they are forgedpapers,” revealed police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
He is said to have entered Kenya on May 3, this year through Garissa together with a Swiss national Magd Najjar, 19, ostensibly to seek medical attention.
Erdogan and Najjar then travelled to Eastleigh in Nairobi where they visited a private clinic for treatment after being injured in an attack by Kenyan troops in Afmadhow, Somalia.
It was then that Anti-Terrorism Police Unit was alerted there were patients of Somali origin seeking medical treatment at the clinic. But by the time the detectives visited the clinic, they established the two militants had left and were headed to a lodging where they were staying.
Without knowledge of their plans, the police kept surveillance on the two for a week as they moved from one place to the other, including mosques for prayers.
Unknown to the officers, the two were carrying what informers said was a lot of money, which they used to hire a car to take them back to the Kenya-Somalia border after a seven-day stint in Nairobi.
Informed sources said ATPU detectives wanted to arrest the two in Garissa and deport them immediately. Kiraithe described Erdogan as a dangerous man trained to detect danger when it beckons.
In Garissa town, the two who were driving themselves around the town for a day visiting various places suddenly abandoned their car on the roadside after realising they were being trailed. And in a bold move, the two walked to a nearby police station and claimed they were workers of a local Non-Governmental Organisation and feared being kidnapped in the town by “criminals”.
The detectives had by then lost trace of the wanted men and were focused on the abandoned car. According to officers who were involved in the operation, another man walked into the car and drove off towards Nairobi.
When the detectives stopped him on the way and asked where the occupants who had the car were, the driver said he did not know because he had been asked by another dealer to bring the vehicle back to Nairobi. It is not clear what he told them on being asked where he got the ignition key.
At the police station, officers on duty did not doubt the duo’s theory. They asked them if they had money that they could use to book a lodging. Because they apparently feared they could be caught or detected, they refused to spend the night at various popular hotels in the town, but instead chose a makeshift lodging next to the police station.
The following day, the two had hired another car ready to depart for Nairobi and all they wanted to leave Garissa was police protection, which they got up to Mwingi town.
Officers who had been trailing them said the Garissa team bid them farewell in Mwingi after they were out of the “danger zone”. They then drove back to Nairobi where Najjar apparently hired a room along Mfangano Street.
It was after two days that an informer tipped police saying Najjar was in town. The officers trailed him to the room and arrested him.
Described by Swiss media as a 19-year-old immigrant from Biel, Najjar told police Erdogan jumped into a bus as soon as they arrived in Nairobi and left for Mombasa. Combined security teams in the Coast have since then been trying to trace him.
Kiraithe said he is probably still in the country. “Any person with information on this person should provide the same to the nearest police station. He is believed to be either a citizen of Germany or Turkey and travelling on fake or forged papers,” said Kiraithe.
Najjar is in custody in Nairobi and is set to appear in court for a mention of his case on June 6.
Najjar appeared before Milmani Court’s Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Biwott for the second time in a week to answer charges of being a member of Somalia’s Al Shabaab terror group after he recanted his earlier confessions.
Najjar is also accused of being in the country illegally. He had pleaded guilty to the charges on May 14, but as he was being given mention and hearing dates, he changed his mind, saying he wanted to plead not guilty.
Kiraithe later said Najjar was an accomplice of the wanted German terror suspect Ahmed Khaled Mueller and they had a similar mission in the country.
Najjar’s travelling documents showed he entered Kenya on February 23, last year after he was granted a visa that was to run from January 31 to April 30, 2011. After his visa expired he reportedly never tried to renew it.
Anti-terror police who are handling his case said they had confirmed he had been to Somalia and back using the porous borders.
Kiraithe said they were still hunting down Mueller, insisting he was in the country using the fake names Andreas Martin Muller and Abu Nusaibah.
Police statistics show an increase in the number of foreigners flocking to Kenya seeking to join Al Shabaab. This has raised the concern of the US, which revealed on Wednesday it is training several security agents in Manyani on terror related matters.
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