Zakariya Abashiekh: from school prefect to suspected Al-Shabaab gunsmith

by MMC
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Born in Mombasa 28 years ago, little was known about Zakariya Kamal Sufi Abashiekh until April this year, when he was arrested for allegedly providing logistical support to the Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab in providing it with weapons and other essential materials.

Abashiekh made headlines last week when he disappeared in Mombasa, but Somali intelligence later announced he had been arrested in their country while allegedly trying to hide in areas controlled by the terrorist group.

But his family believes he was kidnapped in Mombasa and handed over to Somali authorities, and they now want the Kenyan government to bring him back to face trial in the country.

According to documents seen by the Nation, Abashiekh was born on June 13, 1993 in Ganjoni, Mombasa.

He attended Arya Primary School before moving to Mvita Boys Secondary School, where he obtained a C (plain) in the 2012 Kenya Certificate of Second Education (KCSE) examinations.

His school records show that he was a disciplined and responsible student with leadership qualities, having been class prefect during his final year.

The headmaster praised him for his obedience, hard work and excellent performance in his duties as class prefect.

During his high school years, Abashiekh actively participated in football and was also a member of the Wildlife Club. At the time, there was no indication that he would later be associated with one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations.

Those who know him describe Abashiekh as a good person, and his alleged involvement in criminal activity appears to have surprised them.

Sufi Yusuf

Yusuf Sufi Abasheikh, the uncle of Zakariya Kamal Sufi, a Kenyan businessman suspected by police of illegally shipping military equipment to Somalia, speaking to the press outside the courthouse in Mombasa on October 2, 2023.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | National Media Group

After graduating from high school, Abashiekh studied engineering at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology in China, where he spent five years and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and technology.

“The Degree Awarding Committee, in accordance with the Regulations Concerning Academic Degrees in the People’s Republic of China, has conferred upon Zakariya Kamal Sufi the degree of Computer Science and Technology Engineer with all rights, privileges and honors, awarded in Hangzhou, China, June 20, 2018,” reads part of his academic paper.

His family is still reeling from the latest revelations, perplexed as to how their son could have been associated with terrorists as an intermediary providing logistical support.

His family says nothing in his behavior prepared them for the devastating allegations that their son was working for Al-Shabaab.

Sources say Abashiekh started a small business in China, which eventually expanded to East Asia.
Police suspect that it was through this affair that he met Al-Shabaab sympathizers and eventually provided them with logistical support.

However, his relatives dispute the claim that their son has ever been in Somalia.

According to his father, Mr. Kamal Sufi, his son had never been to Somalia and was therefore surprised to hear the news of his arrest in the Horn of Africa country.

“I was confused. I know my son. I am always with him and I can assure you that he has never been to Somalia,” he said. The nation in an exclusive interview.

However, he confirmed that Abashiekh also ran a logistics company transporting goods from China.

“He helped anyone who wanted to order items from China, earning a commission for his work. He specifically dealt with customers who wanted to order goods in large quantities to sell in bulk,” his father said.

His father described him as a good man who never had disciplinary problems at school or in the neighborhood where he grew up.

Kamal Sufi

Kamal Sufi, the father of Zakariya Kamal Sufi, a Kenyan businessman suspected by police of illegally shipping military equipment to Somalia on October 2, 2023.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | National Media Group

Before his arrest, Abashiekh ran a cosmetics store and ready-made clothing business in Marikiti Market in Mombasa’s central business district. His father opened a shop there for him after finishing his studies in China.

“We are a religious family, so our children are supposed to set a good example in the neighborhood. That’s how my son has always been,” his father said.

He pleaded with the government to bring his son back to Kenya to stand trial so he could face the consequences of any crimes he may have committed on its territory.

“I urge the government to repatriate Kamal to Kenya to stand trial. I do not want him to be tried in a foreign country where he could be harmed. I want him to be tried in Kenya, where the charges against “He can be tried. proven, and he can either be imprisoned or acquitted based on the available evidence. I will accept whatever the outcome,” he said.

Abashiekh initially expressed concern for his safety at the Shanzu court when he was arrested in April.

He claimed to have received death threats shortly after his arrest. Although he did not reveal the names behind the alleged threats, he said he believed the threats came from powerful individuals.

The suspect, who was out on Sh1 million bail, has been regularly reporting to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) headquarters as investigations continue.

On September 5, he disappeared on his way home from work at 5 p.m. Video sequence obtained by The nation shows him being kidnapped in the Mombasa CBD by suspected plainclothes security guards, who forced him into a white Land Cruiser.

At the time of the incident, Abashiekh was in a friend’s vehicle. The disappearance was reported to the central police station.

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) reported his arrest last Friday, saying he was responsible for acquiring weapons and explosives from foreign sources to arm Al-Shabaab and harm Somali nationals.

According to NISA, the suspect had been under their surveillance for some time. They also claimed he was the mastermind of a network involved in the illegal purchase of a military container overseas.

Kenyan security agencies were investigating the cargo seized at Mogadishu port, which included five JS advanced agricultural drones capable of transporting 10 liters of liquid up to 500 meters above sea level and covering an area of ​​10 hectares.

Other items included rifle scopes, fabric for military uniforms, canvas for tents, night vision goggles, swimming goggles, voice recording pens, spy glasses and watches, radios military grade two-way cameras, helmets, ghillie suits (camouflage), portable solar panels, flashlights and batteries.

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