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Tanzania dismantles al-Shabaab child indoctrination camp in Tanga region
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tanzanian police broke up an al-Shabaab training operation in Tanga region, arresting 69 suspects and freeing dozens of recruits ranging from 4 to 13 years old in a security sweep carried out October 28th to November 5th.

"This has shocked us, we have increased security in Kilindi district and we have deployed enough community police who know the place properly, and through joint operations with our police we are getting encouraging results," Tanga Regional Police Commander Constantine Massawe told Sabahi, confirming the number of arrests.

On the first day of the operation, police rescued 54 children and 32 women who were found at a training facility in Lwande and reunited them with their families the first week of November, according to Kilindi District Commissioner Selemani Liwowa.
Indoctrinating very young minds

Another 20 children, aged between 4 and 13 and who "had been completely brainwashed" by al-Shabaab at a local mosque, were placed in a rehabilitation programme, Liwowa told Sabahi.

When police found them at Madina mosque, the youngsters possessed exercise books which contained teachings on "how to kill using a knife [or] a machete, how to fight aggressors with weapons and without [weapons], how to sabotage the economy and how to liberate East Africa from the hands of the kuffar [infidels]," according to Liwowa.

Al-Shabaab had brainwashed these children to the point that they disowned their parents as not being true Muslims because they intermingled with non-Muslims, he said.

During the raid on the mosque, police also seized 12 videos containing al-Shabaab teachings on how to liberate Muslims in East Africa and the world at large, he said.

The leader of the group, who goes by the name Ayubu and is commonly known as "Master", fled minutes before the police arrived at the mosque, but they arrested his assistant, a resident of Singida region identified as Mr. Jumanne, Liwowa said.

The children were handed over to social workers for a three-week rehabilitation programme, said Tanga District Commissioner Halima Dendego. If they are able, the children will be reunited with their families, she said.

"My surprise is how these young children came in contact with these trainers," Dendego told Sabahi. "You find a four-year-old child whose parents are not known, and you wonder how they got hold of such a young child."

Parents need to be educated about the importance of keeping their children in schools so they do not fall prey to terrorist groups, Dendego said.
A growing al-Shabaab threat?

The presence of al-Shabaab in the district came to light in the last week of October, when aggrieved citizens notified local government officials about the training camp located in the Lwande forest.

"We got the information from Samaritans, especially pastoralists whose cattle were being seized whenever they crossed nearby this training camp," Liwowa said. "Also, [the al-Shabaab trainers] were evicting natives and confiscating land to the extent that they had acquired 500 acres."

Local officials learned that four al-Shabaab trainers had arrived in Kilindi district in 2008 and joined the Madina mosque, but villagers distanced themselves from the trainers after finding their views to be too fundamentalist, Liwowa said.

"After that skirmish late in 2008," referring to a physical altercation that occurred inside the mosque between locals and the al-Shabaab members, "the trainers bought their own piece of land and built a separate mosque which now they used to impart al-Shabaab teachings," he said.

According to information gathered so far, some children who had been trained by al-Shabaab in Kilindi had been sent to Somalia via Mombasa, Kenya, Liwowa said. A number of al-Shabaab instructors from Somalia and Mombasa also came to Kilindi in early 2013, and there appears to be recruitment efforts in other regions as well, such as Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Pwani and Mtwara.

The police operation in Kilindi district follows the October 7th arrest of 11 suspected al-Shabaab members undergoing military training in the Mtwara region.

In addition, police arrested Tanzanian businessman Juma Abdallah Kheri October 31st in Tanga on suspicion that he was involved in financing terrorist groups in Tanzania and al-Shabaab's affiliate in Kenya, the Muslim Youth Centre.

When asked what Tanzania was doing to counter the seemingly growing al-Shabaab threat, Director of Criminal Investigations Robert Manumba said police were collaborating with other security agencies to combat the problem.

"We have teamed up all security departments to form a special team. The team includes security officers from the police, army, our national security intelligence service, immigration and the [Tanzania Revenue Authority] who are closely working together to find a lasting solution," Manumba told Sabahi.


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