The police have arrested Waleed Ahmed Zein and Halima Adan Ali, alleged terrorism facilitation conduits for the Islamic State.
The duo had established an intricate Islamic State financial facilitation network spanning across Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Eastern Africa.
Investigations have established that Waleed made huge sums of direct deposits into his account alleging that the money was emanating from an autospares company owned by his father Ahmed Zain Ahmed.
Police investigations point to the possibility that Waleed, in the period between; early 2017 and June 2018, had transacted over USD 150,000 – Ksh 15,000,000.
To disguise his nefarious activities Waleed previously worked as a long distance truck driver which enabled him to visit a number of countries.
He then ventured into tuk-tuk business in Mombasa. Just before his arrest he had been working at a land brokerage firm situated in Nairobi CBD.
Reports further indicate that Ahmed Zain Ahmed also known as Abu Waleed in the jihad forum left Nairobi for Syria around August 2014 accompanied his son Faheem Zein.
The duo was in the company of Zeituni Ali; whom Ahmed had acquired a fake marriage certificate for.
Zeituni upon arrival in Syria, got married to Salah, a high ranking Islamic State’s operative and a former Moi University student who hailed from Mombasa.
Abu Waleed had also intended to travel with another woman identified as Halima Adan Aliwith the promise of marriage.
Halima is an extremist recruiter and facilitator renowned as the main coordinator of the infamous “Alshababes” which was uncovered by security agencies.
Halima’s arrest, forced Abu Waleed to leave her behind and to proceed with Faheem and Zeituni.
Abu Waleed, through proxy channels that involved Halima’s sister Abdia Adan Ali, managed to facilitate provision of funds to secure Halima’s release.
Halima is reported to have at this point been endeared into affiliating herself with ISIS and subsequently ditched her support towards Al-Shabaab.
Halima is said to have been working very closely with Abu Waleed following her release on bond and thereafter formed a close relationship with Waleed Zein,Abu Waleed’s son.
Halima would then begin facilitating movement of funds at the behest of Abu Waleed that were similar to those carried out by Waleed Zein.
Between mid-2017 and early 2018, Halima went on to receive large sums of money, mostly through Hawala systems, from various parts of the world and would forward the same to ISIS fighters based in Syria, Libya and DRC Congo.
Halima would become a key member in the ISIS cell network and would also be used as a conduit by Abu Waleed to pass instructions, money and accounts to Waleed Zein in a bid to throw off police surveillance.
Police say investigations had identified various transactions including names and account numbers conducted by Halima which would assist in prosecution.
Floyd Henrie, and his wife Yusra Hussein, are some of the family members who were subsequently roped into the money facilitation racket.
Police added that they were monitoring all transactions by Waleed into the country, including a car and vehicle spares front company that Waleed was using as a cover-up to coordinate his activities.
Ahmed’s other son, Zein Ahmed Zein, who in May 2015 also travelled to Syria with his mother Lorna Henrie Barry alias Lorna Haniya Carola, died in September 2017, at ISIS frontlines in Syria.
Initially, the family had purported that Lorna was deceased but investigations by police determined that indeed she is alive and currently involved in facilitating movement of funds for ISIS operatives as well as taking care of widows whom their jihadist husbands had died in battle in Syria.
Police have determined that relatives were aware of the Zein’s family relocation to Syria but failed to report to the police.
In fact, the family’s patriarch Zein Ahmed Zein, father to Ahmed Zein, who resides in Mombasa, was the first to be contacted by Ahmed when he got to Syria.
The arrest of Waleed and Halima espouses how terrorism financing continues to present a security conundrum for security agencies the world over.
Innovations in money exchange/transfer technologies characterized by use of virtual currency e.g. bitcoin often plagued by a lack of centralization and limited to no regulation, security organizations are compelled to continuously upgrade systems and amend policies to ensure ensuing loopholes such as anonymity of users, are not exploited by criminal entities engaged in money laundering, drug and human trafficking as well as terrorism.
Another challenge for security organizations is the use of hawalas, a money transfer service extremely popular among Muslim populations.
These hawalas are often lax on retrieving details such as the source of the money, and the intended use by the recipient and as a consequence they have been exploited by terror elements.
Ultimately, financial access by terror groups has allowed them to radicalize, recruit, train, purchase weapons and ammunition to conduct attacks with devastating ramifications.
The self-declared Islamic State, domiciled in Syria and Iraq, and boasting of offshoots in the Khorosan Province, the Caucasus, Western Africa, DRC and Somalia, continues to pose a serious threat to international security; Kenya is no exemption.
Information has it, that a number of Kenyans have traveled to fight for the terrorist organization in Libya, Syria and Somalia.
In addition, while the attack on the Mombasa Central Police by three Islamic State affiliated women was foiled, the attack was indicative of the intent and potential of the terror group to execute attacks in the country.
The Islamic State, in an attempt to galvanize its reach and extend its area of operations beyond Syria and Iraq – where it is currently disintegrating owing to sustained offensives, has sought to finance its offshoots and operatives, far and wide.
In the Eastern African region, Waleed and Halima were the terror group’s big wigs with regards to financial facilitation.