By Willis Oketch and David Ochami
Mombasa, (Standard): One of the two men held for butchering a soldier on a London street last week was freed from Kenyan custody at the request of UK officials, it emerged Sunday.
Michael Adebolajo — who gave his name, then as Michael Olemindis Ndemolajo — was arrested by police in December 2010 in Kenya on suspicion of links to Al Shabaab after he and a group of youths attempted to take a boat ride to Somalia.
Adebolajo was believed to have been preparing to train and fight with the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Al-Shabab in 2010 when he was arrested with five others, Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit head Boniface Mwaniki told The Associated Press.
A few days into the trial in a Mombasa court however, the Kenyan co-accused were bonded to keep the peace while Adebolajo was deported to Britain apparently because he had genuine travel documents and the British High Commission in Nairobi had reportedly told the court in a report that the suspect was not on any criminal watch list in the UK.
Kenya’s anti-terror police identified him as the man they detained in Mombasa on terrorism charges and deported to the United Kingdom on December 26, 2010.
Police suspected the Briton was among foreigners recruited to join the Al Shabaab in Somalia.
The late radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo through a controversial mosque in Mombasa’s Majengo slums allegedly led the network.
This suspect, according to an intelligence source in Mombasa was among the stream of British jihadists and converts to Islam who converged on the coastal city en-route to Somalia through Kiunga with material support from Rogo and fugitive British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite.
Samantha escaped from Kenya’s police custody in Kisauni, Mombasa County a couple of years ago after faking a pregnancy amid reports that security officials were compromised to let her loose.
The Standard has established the suspect who was detained in Lamu with several Kenyan students, was arrested on December 19 or 20, 2010 trying to enter Somalia through the Kiunga border crossing to join Al-Shabaab.
The magistrate gave a free bond to the five Kenyan youths after police found no terrorist links with them.
“This is the man we deported,” said ATPU commandant for Coast Province Elijah Rop Sunday referring to pictures of the suspect in a Kenyan court splashed in the British press.
Rop told The Standard Sunday that Kenya’s intelligence suspected the suspect was a terrorist and added that the British intelligence was warned about him.
“It is true he was deported and upon being deported we warned the British that this man was dangerous but they never took Kenyan police seriously.”
Rop did not indicate why Michael was suspected of being “a very dangerous man” but an Intelligence officer who worked on this case told The Standard that “Kenya’s intelligence is always ahead of many others” which seems to contradict a report of good health issued by the British mission in Nairobi.
Following the suspects’ arrest they were driven to Mombasa for the first court appearance on December 23 2010. They were brought back to the court after three days when the Kenyans were released after signing a bond to “keep the peace”.
On that day the court ordered the police to cooperate with the Immigration Department to deport Michael who was transported from Shimo la Tewa Prison but it is not clear if such happened or whether the suspect left Kenya through the international airports in Mombasa or Nairobi.
Michael’s co-accused were Mohamed Adam, Juma Khan Hassan Mohamed, Swaleh Abdul and Mbwana Mohamed.
Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were shot and wounded by police on Wednesday last week after hacking Lee Rigby, a British soldier to death in broad daylight.