Salim Rashid Mohamed, an exemplary student, has shocked many after security agents identified him as one of the leaders of the international terror outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
Hopes for the second-born to become an icon in the family were dashed after he was recruited into terrorism about two years ago. Salim, 27, who was identified as a leader of Isis in a recent video, is being sought in Kenya after he jumped bail last year in a terror-related case.
Salim’s father, Mr Mohamed Rashid, has for the first time opened up about his son, saying, he was shocked to hear the news.
“I don’t know where my son is and what he is doing. I really feel bad about it,” said the anguished parent. Mr Rashid expressed his disappointment in his son.
“He was a bright boy. But what is the importance of his stellar performance? How is it helping anyone? It is like I don’t have any child by that name,” he said.
Armed with machetes
“We don’t know what he did. What I am aware of is the terrorism case facing him in court. He got good grades in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education [KCSE] exam, but look at him now and his life,” the distraught father added during an interview with the Nation.
The family says they do not know Salim’s whereabouts. His friends, neighbours and former schoolmates are shocked after seeing him in an undated video showing a person suspected to be Salim beheading an alleged Isis traitor. In the almost five-minutes-long video, the terrorists are seen with a machete shouting in Swahili and Arabic that traitors must be killed. They are all wearing military fatigues and armed with machetes and rifles.
Those who know him have little hope of ever seeing him again. His family is not only concerned about his whereabouts but also what could happen to him should he show up.
According to Mr Rashid, he was ready to educate his son to whatever level he wanted but he chose a different path, one that has now put the family under the watchful eye of the Anti-Terror Police Unit officers and security agencies.
“I sent him to Turkey to study computer engineering after scoring an A minus in the 2014 KCSE, but that did not work. Here we are today, with no information of his whereabouts,” he said. Those who knew him did not want to talk about him for fear of being tracked down by the police.
“It’s a pity his life took this turn, he was very bright,” said a friend who requested anonymity. According to court records, Salim allegedly fled to Mozambique to join the Isis cell there. He is described in a probation report as an intelligent man who has wasted his chances in life and chosen to engage in a dangerous trade.
According to court records, Salim went to Qubaa Nursery in Mvita and later joined Qubaa Primary School, before being transferred to Abu Hureira Academy, where he sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 2010 and passed. He joined a private secondary school in Mombasa in 2011 and sat his KCSE exam four years later, emerging one of the top candidates.
Salim was selected to join the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, but was not interested. He was later enrolled at the Technical University of Mombasa to study computer engineering, but dropped out after the first year.
He then enrolled for a certificate course in computer studies at Abraar Muslim School. After this, the record shows, his father paid for computer engineering studies at Istanbul Kultur University in Turkey.
He was deported from Turkey on suspicion of being a member of Isis after being found at the border headed to Syria. He was charged with the offence at Shanzu Law Court in criminal case number 419/2017, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. In the report, the police say none of his family members was willing to be interviewed in relation to the case for fear of being associated with terrorism.
After his acquittal, he was in 2019 arrested at the Moi International Airport over terror links and charged in court. He was accused together with others not before the court of being members of terror group al-Shabaab.
He was also charged with being in possession of items used to make improvised explosive devices. The charge sheet indicated that the suspect was found with twin stranded wires, batteries connected in a series using a piece of carton secured by an elastic string, inductor coils, black particles and white explosive powder, which are used in the making of an improvised explosive device for the purposes of terror activities.
Court documents show that the suspect was found with the materials on March 8 at Ngomeni in Kwale County.
After spending days in remand, Salim secured a Sh1.5 million bond with one surety of a similar amount, after Mombasa Senior Resident Magistrate Rita Amwayi said the prosecution did not have valid reasons to have him kept in custody pending the conclusion of his case.
Warrant of arrest
Salim religiously attended the court proceedings until October last year when he vanished. His disappearance was reported to the police under OB number 5/12/2020.
At the time of his disappearance, at least eight witnesses had given evidence in the case. His advocate, Mr Yusufu Aboubakar, told the court during a mention of the case that Salim’s family had been unable to trace him.
The magistrate has issued a warrant of arrest against Salim, while the officer investigating the matter is expected to appear in court to explain the position of the warrant.
Court records show that Salim is suspected to be in Mozambique. Information about his whereabouts came following the arrest of Mr Richard Lazarus Kivatsi, whom the police claim has been communicating with Salim. The state has claimed that a forensic analysis of Mr Kivatsi’s two mobile phones indicates that he has been in close contact with Mr Salim and another suspect, Mr Alfan Ali Juma, who are said to be in Mozambique.
“These two accused persons are charged with terror offences, are out on bond and have breached the bond terms by not attending court and are at large to date. Intelligence reports indicate that the two are in Mozambique fighting for al-Qaeda,” the police said of Salim and Juma, while opposing bond for Mr Kivatsi.
According to the police, the two escaped to Mozambique after they were granted bond by the courts.