Mtwara /Dar. Police in Mtwara Region are holding eleven people on suspicion of taking part in Shabaab-sponsored guerrilla training.
The suspects were arrested at Makolionga Mountain in Nanyumbu District following a tip-off from members of the public, who saw them in the forest performing military drills.
Regional Police Commander Zelothe Stephen told a news conference yesterday that the 11 were arrested in possession of 25 digital video discs (DVDs) featuring Al-Shabaab training manuals.
According to him, the suspects were also in possession of locally made firearms.
“We were tipped off a week ago, that there was a group of people undergoing intensive military drills in the forest; we acted swiftly and nabbed them,’’ said the RPC.
He said the police were still interrogating the suspects, seeking to know, besides other things, who their financiers and sponsors are. Mr Stephen said their leader is a 39-year-old Mohammed Makande.
He went on to name other suspects as: Hassan Omary, 39, Rashid Ismail, 27, Abdallah Hamisi, 32, SalumWadi, 38, Fadhili Rajabu, 20, Abbas Muhidini, 32, Ismail Chande, 18, Said Mawazo, Issa Abeid, 21 and Ramadhani Rajabu, 26.
The arrest comes at a time when there is an escalation in incidents of terrorism in the region, especially in neighbouring Kenya and Somalia.
President Jakaya Kikwete last week urged members of the public to take extra precaution as the government beefs up security in those areas considered to be potential targets.
“We have instructed the owners of establishments that attract huge numbers of people to install security cameras and make sure metal detectors and x-rays are available,’’ said the Head of the State in his televised end-of-the-month address.
The suspects, according to the Mtwara police chief, would appear in court immediately after the completion of investigations. He noted that all suspects are from Nanyumbu District.
A team of detectives from the police headquarters has been dispatched to Mtwara to beef up the interrogation, Mr Stephen added.
He further said that after previewing the DVDs, the police found out that they contained footages featuring activities of Al-Shabaab militants, the assassination of Osama bin Laden and Zanzibar’s Uamsho group.
The DVDs, according to Mr Stephen, also show footages of the late Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin Dada, and the Mogadishu Sniper.
“This is an indicator that we are not safe, because we found the group hiding at a heavily guarded forest in the district,’’ the regional police boss added. He appealed to good Samaritans to volunteer information on any suspicious activities.
JNIA terror suspects repatriated
Meanwhile, the director of criminal investigations (DCI), Mr Robert Manumba, yesterday said the two people who were arrested on suspicion of being terrorists at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) on Saturday evening (not Sunday morning as earlier reported) have been repatriated to Malaysia.
Mr Abutaha Hamza and Mr Mohammed Alnems were arrested at the JNIA a few minutes before boarding a Nairobi-bound Kenya Airways flight.
According to Mr Manumba, the Palestinian nationals were heading to Malaysia via Nairobi. The two were suspected by the airline’s cabin crew after they were found with fake tickets.
“After interrogation we found out that they were not terrorists but had tried to forge tickets to return to their country because they didn’t have cash to buy tickets,’’ said Mr Manumba in a telephone interview.
Following the arrest, Kenya Airways headquarters in Nairobi sent a team of security personnel to verify the authenticity of the tickets that the two suspects were holding.
It was later established that the tickets were fake, according to the DCI.
Mr Manumba added that Tanzanian police, in collaboration with Immigration officials, decided that the two be deported to Malaysia where they were heading before their arrest.
He revealed that the government shouldered the costs of deporting the two Palestinians.