Kampala. A day after a security raid on Usafi Mosque in Kampala, details are starting to emerge of how children were being held captive and radicalised at the place of worship.
The raid on the mosque near Kisenyi, a city suburb, on Friday night left two suspects dead and 36 arrested, according police. Eighteen women and 94 children were rescued.
Rahama Nantumbwe reveals how her husband, Abubaker Senono, has been missing for close to four months now ever since he joined the group of Muslims praying from the mosque.
Senono went missing from his home in Kweba Zone, Mutundwe, Kampala, after handing over his daughter, Adillah Nakijoba, 14, and his niece, Jamillah Nampeera, 13, to this group of Tabliqs.
“He (Senono) left home on December 26, 2017. Before he left, I tried to inquire from him where he was going and he told me he did not know. When we were still talking, his phone rang and the name on the screen was reading Abdullahaman. When he picked up the phone, he was immediately called to the mosque at Sekaziga House,” Nantumbwe narrates.
Abdullahaman is the head of the sect, which is believed to be associated with Jamil Mukulu. At Usafi Mosque, he is called Abdullahaman while at Sekaziga House Mosque, he is known as Hassan Musa.
However, she later received a phone call from the same Abdullahaman, telling her how Senono had been arrested and asking her to send him Shs1m so that he could smuggle him in a container. Nantumbwe says she refused to send him the money after he (Abdullahaman) failed to tell her the circumstances of Senono’s arrest or where he was being held.
She says since then, she has never heard from him. Nantumbwe says when she called Senono’s mother, she directed her to Usafi Mosque, commonly referred as Malikazi.
Nantumbwe says when they went to the place, they were denied a chance to speak to the children until one elderly man convinced them to let her in.
She said it took a lot of pleading before they could be allowed access to the children. Although she saw the children, they were not allowed to speak to them.
“The children were being mistreated, they were eating one meal a day and they all looked frail,” she says. She says when they looked at the blackboard, they saw the children being taught about the direction to Congo.
This prompted Nantumbwe to report a case of disappearance of Senono, Nakijoba and Nampeera at Mutundwe Police Post on January 19. The police post referred her to Old Kampala Police Station, who also claimed they did not handle matters of religion.
By Saturday evening, Nantumbwe did not know the whereabouts of the two girls following the raid.
A resident of Luzige Zone where the mosque is located, described the group as very complicated.
“Sometimes you can hear people crying and being beaten. If you go to that mosque to pray, you must explain what has brought you in that mosque or else you are branded a spy and that comes with a number of kibokos (canes),” the resident, who declined to be identified, revealed.
Following the weekend raid, the place is still being guarded by anti-terrorism police.
“We do not know and we can never know how many people died during that operation. But that number of two is not true. It was a real battle, those guys inside had guns; at least 20 people died during the shootout,” one resident said.
During an investigation in February, Daily Monitor established that Nakijoba and Nampeera were living in the mosque. At the time, there were about 18 children. This newspaper could not reach Mualim Mahad who has been teaching the children at the mosque.
One security operative, who declined to be named, blamed the mess at the mosque on former Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, whom he said ordered police to arrest the group before reversing the order.
“We always had information that the group was radicalising children. One day, Kayihura told us to arrest [the suspects] at 11am; we arrested and he told us to release [and] we released [them]. At 2pm of the same day, he told us to arrest them and shortly after, he ordered us to release them, which we did. At 7pm, he again told us to arrest them but that time the boys refused to execute the arrest,” says the officer.
We were unable to reach Gen Kayihura to confirm this version of events.
A senior police officer, who was closely associated with the operation, said the former police chief was at the time likely being misled by rival Muslim groups.
Daily Monitor has learnt that the group’s Amir, Abdullahaman Faisan, had not been seen at the place in the last two months. It was reported that he had committed suicide but we could not independently verify this. Meanwhile, the owner of the place, Shiekh Ibrahim Kimera, died of hypertension and was buried on Friday at Nkoowe on Hoima Road.