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Inside boda boda rider Victor Bwire’s plot to blow up KICC

Storyline:Security, World

NATION AFRICA|NAIROBI: Victor Odede Bwire was a man on a mission. He jumped onto his motorbike in January 2019 and started on a road trip between Nairobi and Elwak town in Mandera, located near the border of Kenya and Somalia.

During this journey, he checked the number of police roadblocks, noting how many times he was stopped by security officers and relayed the same to a shadowy man in Somalia.

On the way, he was also asked to observe how security personnel would treat him if he carried a passenger on his bike. 

So off he went on his journey to the north and returned to the city days later, all the while giving his benefactor a brief of each leg of the journey.

Bwire’s second assignment was to carry out surveillance of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). He was tasked with checking how many entrances there were into the building, how security searches were being conducted and the number of doors. He was also tasked to check on the toilets, CCTV cameras, loading zones and other areas including parking lots.

Once again, all these details were relayed to a man identified as Mohammed Yare Abdalla, based in Somalia, through three Facebook accounts which he was also instructed to open secretly.

According to the police, who presented the evidence in a Nairobi court, all this information was geared towards blowing up KICC sometime in mid-2019, but was nipped in the bud by hawk-eyed police who got wind of the terror plot and arrested the former boda boda rider.

Upon interrogation, Bwire, whose cousin is missing convicted terrorist Elgiva Bwire, admitted opening the three pseudo accounts on Facebook and receiving instructions from Abdalla. He, however, defended himself saying Abdalla was a sugar merchant and that the trips to Elwak and Moyale were meant to see whether the police would “disturb” him on the way.

Regarding his surveillance of KICC, the convict said Abdalla wanted to hold a Somali cultural event at the iconic building sometime in 2019 and was simply seeking details of the venue, an explanation that was dismissed by Senior Principal Magistrate Benard Ochoi who argued that an exhibitor would only be interested in details such as the price of holding an exhibition, ambience and accessibility among others.

In a ruling delivered on Monday, the magistrate said that all details as narrated by the prosecution and Bwire’s own admission led him to conclude that he was guilty of two counts: conspiracy to commit a terrorism act and collection of information for use in the commission of a terrorism act, with the later offence carrying a prison term of not more than 30 years.

“It is my finding also that the prosecution has proved both counts beyond reasonable doubt and he is convicted of the same,” the magistrate said.

Mr Bwire was introduced to the accomplices in Somalia by his cousin Elgiva, who was convicted and sentenced by a Nairobi court, served his term but disappeared upon release. 

As part of the process, he was also asked to drop anything identified with him including mobile phones, identity cards and Facebook accounts.

To acquire new mobile phones, he was asked to pick lost identity cards and register a new line. Mr Bwire later opened three Facebook accounts, Sadik Ali Mose, Kimsam, Soze Keziah, which he would communicate with Mr Abdalla in Somalia.

He was also asked to purchase three books after being sent money and confirm whether he was ready for Hijrah, seeking emigration for the sake of Allah.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who testified through mutual legal assistance, told the court that the communications on Facebook found their way to an accomplice in Somalia. 

In the ruling, the magistrate said although circumstantial, all the evidence pointed to Bwire conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

“The collection and transmission of information must be looked at cumulatively. It was for no other purpose but for the commission of a terrorist act. The suspect is guilty of both counts,” Mr Ochoi said.

The prosecution asked for more time to file an impact report before sentencing.

The case will be mentioned on February 8.