Diary of an Army Officer;
The pre-Westgate days of laxity were long gone. We were more proactive than before, ever since the establishment of the Metropolitan Command.
Police could well fight criminals and drug barons, that we left to them, but ours was to combat terrorism, with whatever we had, even if it meant going nuclear. The 1998 US embassy bombing was unexpected, so was the 2002 Paradise Hotel bombing in Mombasa.
But Westgate Mall attack on 21st September, 2013 caught us by surprise. It was completely out of the blue. Well, who would have guessed we could be talking of such attacks in Africa let alone Kenya?
The crackdown commenced, albeit secretly, after the attack; when the president gave the green light for the establishment of the Metropolitan Command. Well, it had been there, a closely guarded state secret.
Racial profiling was much worse than post-9/11 in the USA. Eastleigh, christened Little Mogadishu by the media, became a military target, and despite the much talked about new constitution, national security took precedence over human and constitutional rights.
This day was no different. After so many days of surveillance, we moved in on the target. He was a well-known businessman, owned half of Little Mogadishu. His 40 days of terrorism were over.
Alpha Team, the one I commanded, picked him up as he left Markazul Mosque for Qiyaam al-Layl (night prayer). His screams were nothing as he hurled insults at us and barked about his constitutional rights.
“You’ll have your rights when we are done with you,” I told him. We had a terror attack to stop.
His rants and raves continued, but I was undeterred. For me, it was personal. And the Guantanamo we took them was not the basement of Nyayo House. It was real hell. They either gave us something or died for my cause.
I am Muslim, Arabic descent. My mother died in the 1998 bomb blast, and my father died in the Westgate Mall attack. He was just enjoying the fruits of the life he had worked so hard for.
“Listen very carefully, Ahmed Muktar Robow Abdi. If you want to ever see your wife and daughter again, you’ll talk to me. What’s the target…?”
He shook in rage. The family threat was working. But when I thought I was breaking him he reeled back and spit into my face. That got me. I went berserk. He never saw the blows as he became my human piñata.
When I took a break, sweating, he looked at me, his eyes about to be swallowed in his swollen face, and smiled, an arrogant smile, before he said, “Allahu Akbar!”
That’s when I saw the discreetly concealed switch.