One Jabreel Malik Muhammed alias Abu Jabreel, an Al Shabaab commander, began drawing a blueprint of how to execute the July 11, 2010 bombing in Kampala as early as 2009 in Mogadishu, according to highly placed sources at the centre of the investigation.
Jabreel, who was killed by a US drone on April 2011 in an airstrike in Dhobley, a border town in southern Somalia, worked alongside Musa Hussein, who was also killed alongside Fazul Muhammed, the linchpin of Al Qaeda in the region.
Little is known about Jabreel, but Musa Hussein was a Kenyan Somali, a one-legged militant believed to have been involved in financing operations in the region on behalf of the Al Shabaab.
Also known as Musa Sambayo, Musa Hussein was born and grew up in Wajir, a north-eastern town of Kenya largely inhabited by Somalis. Later in life, Musa became radicalised by a friend and developed hatred and disrespect for the West, particularly the United States.
In Al Shabaab circles, he was known as Abdullahi Dere, although he had other aliases of Musa Dere or Musa Al Kinyi (Musa the Kenyan). He is believed to have met Fazul in Mombasa in 2004 and became his personal assistant.
Musa Hussein lost one of his legs while fighting in Mogadishu, eventually returning home for treatment in 2006. By the time he recovered, the Union of Islamic Courts had been defeated by Ethiopian troops and the Al Shabaab group was in its nascent stage.
Musa formed a pact with the Al Shabaab. He operated from Mombasa, recruiting jihadists in Nairobi and Wajir. Although he did not have any income-generating business, he was often seen driving flashy cars.
In 2009, Musa, who had legal documents as a Kenyan national, rented a plush house in Nairobi’s South C estate. He lived with his sister and always courted suspicion because he rarely hosted visitors.
Although he did not have formal education, Musa spoke fluent English, Swahili, Arabic and Somali, a gift that he used to carefully craft his movements across the porous borders in the region. In early 2010, he was arrested at the Kenya-Somalia border, but later duped the police and was released on bond.
In Nairobi, he had a close relationship with some of the Somali clerics in Eastleigh and regularly prayed at the Jamia mosque in Central Nairobi. It was in Eastleigh that Musa recruited one of the suicide bombers, the Somali who would later replace Mahmoud Mugisha, by then detained in a Nairobi prison.
It was this Somali whose body was badly decapitated in the attack at Kyadondo Rugby Club. Security sources believe that Mahmoud Mugisha, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit terrorism and sentenced to five years by a court in Kampala recently, was supposed to have been one of the suicide bombers had he not been in detention in Nairobi on charges of fraud.
Mugisha was initially recruited by Al Qaeda, but had fought alongside the Al Shabaab and listened to fervent speeches rallying for Jihad in Mogadishu.
According to our sources close to the investigation, Hajji Suleiman Nyamadondo traveled by bus from Arusha in May 2010 and met fellow cell members in Nairobi. He was later handed bomb-making materials, including the suicide vests, and traveled by bus to Kampala through Malaba border post.
He was received by Issa Luyima, the ring leader of Uganda’s terror cell, who took him to a safe house in Namasuba-Zana’s Para zone.
A source has told The Observer that after the delivery of the bomb making materials in May, four young men beat the lax security at the borders and sneaked into the country in June. They planned to carry out attacks within the same month, targeting American interests.
But the plan aborted because they had not received enough logistics in time to execute their plot. The four men returned to Kenya, promising to return as fast as possible to accomplish the task at hand.
Later, following consultations with Musa, it was agreed the world cup finals on July 11 offered the best opportunity to strike. However, they hadn’t found another suicide bomber to replace Mugisha, who was still detained in Kenya.
Musa later found someone willing to replace Mugisha—a radicalised young Somali who prayed at the same mosque as he did. The Somali was living in Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb and was effervescent about martyrdom.
Alongside the Kenyan suicide bomber who is believed to have attacked the Ethiopian Village restaurant in Kabalagala, the two men took a bus ride and entered Uganda through Malaba. Upon arrival in Kampala, they were met by Issa Luyima.
According to security sources, “the Kenyan suicide bomber was courageous enough to return to the country, having traveled to the country earlier in June.”
As the hours ticked towards July 11, Issa Luyima had by now recruited his younger sibling, Haruna Hassan Luyima and Edris Nsubuga. Nsubuga, who has since confessed to having participated in the attack, and was sentenced to 25 years in jail by Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, is a young man whose radicalisation grew in tandem with the pressures of life.
Luyima had carefully chosen the servants’ quarters of a house in Namasuba, Para Zone, as their hide out.
“He was quite strange and only came home in the night,” said a young woman who lives in the house next to the safe house where the bombs were assembled.
However, the woman, who requested not to be named, added: “when other people [suicide bombers] came, we had a lot of noise in the night, but we did not know what was happening.”
This was the place where forensic experts discovered a tool box that contained many metallic objects. They also retrieved a mobile phone from a nearby pit latrine, which they believe could have been used to trigger off the Kyadondo bomb.
After surveying the city, the plotters indentified three prime targets: Kyadondo Rugby Club, Makindye House and the Ethiopian Village restaurant.
On the day they carried out the audacious attacks, the Somali suicide bomber took a boda boda ride to Kyadondo, alongside Edris Nsubuga, while the Kenyan suicide bomber was handed the task of blowing up the Ethiopian Village restaurant.
However, Hassan Luyima, who was supposed to blow himself up at Makindye House, chickened out and abandoned the bag containing the third bomb—an explosives-laden suicide vest—at the counter of the bar.
According to highly placed sources, the abandoned bag at Makindye House provided the first clue towards the suspects.
“The first suspect to be arrested was Hussein Hassan Agade in Nairobi. He was tracked to an Alcatel cell-phone that was supposed to act as a detonator for the Makindye bomb,” our source revealed.
Using the serial number of the phone, investigators were able to discern records related to calls made or received on the phone.
That is how they got to know that the phone belonged to, or was at least one time frequently used by, someone known as Hussein Hassan Agade. It was also from the serial number that investigators established the numbers that regularly called the phone, including those of the two other Kenyan suspects now behind bars.
“Sometimes, they would talk for 30 minutes,” another source told us.
According to our sources, Agade stopped using the phone in the first week of July.
“The most important arrest was that of Suleiman Njoroge, who is nicknamed Mzee and Muhammed Ali Muhammed,” said a security source close to the investigation.
We have been told that later, three other Kenyans were picked up by Interpol Kenya on July 26, 2010 from Embu town, 120km northeast of Nairobi, and handed over to Ugandan authorities on July 28.
For two weeks, Interpol Kenya had tried to apprehend the trio after establishing that they were in Kenya, but had made little headway partly because one of them, Idris Magondu, whose mobile phone was being tracked, had temporarily stopped using it.
On July 25, 2010, Magondu used the same phone to call the customer service of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company to inquire about his electricity bill. By July 26, Interpol Kenya had closed in on him and his accomplices.