In the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the internet and social media pose a challenge to PCVE practitioners because of its anonymity and privacy. Terrorist organizations have transformed their recruitment strategies to use the internet and social media so as to avoid detection and capture by law enforcement authorities.
As a result of this growing threat, Kenyan authorities have engaged in an awareness campaign using social media to educate and empower the masses against terrorism and violent extremism. They also established an anonymous call center to encourage crime reporting without fear of being traced or victimized. Through these efforts, people have taken up the task to tip-off security agencies on rising threats and security issues.
Here in Kenya, the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) based in the coast captured 17 Al Shabaab militants using Telegram to recruit and spread propaganda to unsuspecting youth. The raid came after local youths filed a missing person report on some of their friends who disappeared after being promised money and well-paying jobs in Somalia. Upon further interrogation, the youth revealed that they joined a Telegram group that paid young people to travel to Somalia to work as defense contractors.
Strategic and quick to respond, the officers launched an investigation on potential members of the group as they prepared to raid the Al Shabaab hideout. The 45 minutes raid led to the capture of 19 Al Shabaab militants all of who were on different Telegram channels sharing documents with radicalization and recruitment material for the Al Shabaab in Somalia. Among the detainees were Tanzanian citizens who entered the country illegally as they were promised money by the militant group.
The Al Shabaab turned to recruit unsuspecting members using social media after all their recruitment strategies failed. As evidenced by the raid, young people and communities in areas with rampant radicalizations have taken up community policing to report Al Shabaab activities in the area. They are tired of the damage the group has done to the communities which have a dwindling youth population. According to a local, he claimed that they were getting news of their kins death every other day from militants hiding in Kenya. He continues to say that they are fed up with living in constant fear from the Al Shabaab who threatens to kill and attack anyone who reveals their whereabouts.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations commends the efforts of citizens to report crimes and terrorist activities within the country. It is through their efforts that dozens of terrorist attacks have been thwarted and terrorist cells captured. The fight against terrorism calls for cooperation from all the stakeholders starting with communities, security agencies and civil society organizations.