Unmasked: The lives of Jihadi brides

For a long time, the role of women in masterminding terrorist attacks or forming terror cells remained hidden until around 2012, when Hania Said Sagar, the widow of slain Muslim cleric Sheikh Aboud Rogo, was linked to financing, espionage and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in Kenya.

Terrorist organisations in Somalia and Syria are increasingly recruiting women to act as spies, propagandists, recruiters and fighters.

We take a look at the profiles of some of these women.

Violet Kemunto Omwoyo aka Khadija Mohamoud

An ambitious and intelligent journalist, Kemunto joined the list of women who have been deceived and radicalised by al-Shabaab recruiters with promises of a good life and meritorious service.

She is the wife of the slain terrorist Ali Salim Gichunge alias Farouk, the mastermind of the Dusit D2 attack in Riverside, Nairobi. Investigations into the attack revealed that the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked terror group had used Kemunto as a spy to gather intelligence and facilitate the attack alongside her husband.

At the time of her third husband’s death, Kemunto was pregnant and is reportedly living in al-Shabaab’s headquarters in Jilib, where she teaches Swahili and English to the children of al-Shabaab operatives.

Dorcas Ndombolo, wife of Yogan Wafula

Dorcas Ndombolo Kilingo, alias Yasmin, and Zeinabu Rajab Hassan, wife of Yogan Wafula Mwok, alias Anwar, an al-Shabaab operative in Somalia, travelled to Somalia with their children in 2014 before her husband was killed in the Kolbiyow attack on Kenyan Defence Forces in March 2017.

Anwar is believed to have been shot by his fellow al-Shabaab fighter, who was orchestrating a plan to marry off his wives. The duo and their children currently live in Jilib and are married to other yet-to-be-identified operatives.

Shamim Wanjiru Hussein, wife of al-Shabaab operative Eric Ogada

Another jihadi bride is Shamim Wanjiru Hussein from Mathare, Nairobi, who was radicalised by her lover Eric Ogada, a Somalia-based al-Shabaab facilitator and operative.

In January 2015, she left for Somalia with her daughter on the promise of a better livelihood, only to discover that he was married to two other women.

Angry at the turn of events, Kemunto left him for another al-Shabaab operative, Swaleh Kibet, who was killed in an operation against the militants.

Wanjiru later tried her luck with one Omar Patroba Juma, another al-Shaabab fighter who also died in the foiled attack on the Mangai Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) camp on 14 July 2016.

She remarried in December 2016 to Mohamed Omar Ayman, an al-Shabaab operative from Somalia, and is suspected of being involved in recruiting teenage girls to join al-Shabaab.

According to the police, Wanjiru once called her relatives in Nairobi and lamented the harsh life in Somalia at the hands of al-Shabaab. She expressed a desire to return to Kenya, saying, she had been turned into a sex toy by the terrorists.

Rukia Faraj, wife of a senior al-Shabaab operative.

Rukia Faraj is the wife of the South Coast’s most wanted al-Shabaab operative, who escaped the police dragnet and fled to Somalia. She immediately joined her husband in Somalia after being duped into believing that life was blissful. Despite her husband’s status in the ranks of al-Shabaab, she has tried to flee Somalia, citing mistreatment and embarrassment.

Famia Mustafa

Famia Mustafa lived in the Majengo slums of Nairobi until 2013, when she fled to Somalia with her two children and married Erick Ogada, a Somali-based al-Shabaab facilitator and operative, after settling down with the terrorist group. Before leaving Kenya, Famia was married to Jamal Mohamed alias Malloh, a Harambee Stars player.

Samia Hussein, a former Islamic State jihadi bride

Samia Hussein, a British citizen of Somali origin, was born in London before moving to Nairobi around 2012. She enrolled on a journalism degree course at the United States International University in 2014, but a few semesters into her studies, she mysteriously disappeared to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

While in Syria, Samia was married to Zein Ahmed Zein, a Daesh financial facilitator. Zein was killed in an airstrike in late September 2017, leaving Samia a widow. Samia, who worked for Daesh’s media wing, was injured when coalition forces attacked an arms depot next to her home in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which was under Daesh control. She fled Syria during the fall of Daesh, and was arrested in February 2020 after flying back to the UK.

Shamim Begum

Shamim travelled to Syria at the tender age of 15 with Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, via Turkey and were detained in refugee camps under the control of coalition forces in Syria.

Nadir Muktar Mohamud, wife of Daesh Somalia operative in Puntland.

Nadir Muktar Mohamud, 26, was lured to join the Puntland-based Daesh affiliate in Somalia before being arrested by Somaliland authorities in 2018.

According to police, Nadir was radicalised while attending a computer college in Eastleigh and then linked up with Farhan Mohamud Ali, a Daesh operative in Somalia. Nadir fled the country in the early hours of the morning and boarded a plane using false identity documents provided by her handler.

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