A Kiwi arrested after a deadly Kenyan terrorist attack could be cast adrift by the New Zealand government if he’s found guilty in an African court, a terror expert says.
Kenya police chiefs say that New Zealand national Sulub Warfaa, 36, was arrested earlier this week just a few kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border.
The Daily Nation news outlet says he was allegedly travelling in a white Toyota Hilux ute with two passports. A second passport was reportedly under the name Ramadhan Yusuf.
His arrest come after a terror attack on the upmarket DusitD2 hotel and office compound in the capital Nairobi on January 15 that killed 21 people and injured scores of others.
The Somalia-based Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab – opposed to Kenyan involvement in the Somali civil war and which was behind the 2013 Westgate shopping mall massacre that left 67 people dead – have claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) this morning confirmed it is “providing consular assistance to a New Zealander who has been detained in Kenya”. It said that for privacy reasons, no further information will be provided.
International security expert Paul Buchanan was intrigued by the development, saying that if Warfaa was found guilty of mass murder, then the New Zealand government might not find it “politically expedient” to pursue an extradition. He wouldn’t be surprised that any sentence might have to be served in Africa.
“If [the New Zealand Government] is providing assistance, then we do have a bona fide New Zealand citizen, so then the question is: is it just some radicalised individual with long-standing roots in New Zealand … or is it the son of relatively-recent immigrants who has become radicalised,” Buchanan said.
“If he was found guilty, then the question for the New Zealand Government would be: Do we want this guy back? It could well be that the Government decides that if he commits a crime on foreign soil, then he serves the time on foreign soil, and that has precedent.”
The Herald revealed in December that the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Act, passed in December 2014 to block Kiwis leaving to fight for Islamic State and other terrorist groups, have resulted in eight people having New Zealand passports torn up.
Buchanan wondered whether Warfaa had been on New Zealand Security Intelligence Service’s radar.
“This has got the makings of a story,” he said.
“It could be that he is one of these individuals that the Government has been worried about … [New Zealand citizens] who have gone off to fight.
“Everybody has been focused on Iraq and Syria but there are many fronts in the Islamists world battle plan, and Al-Shabaab is one of the foremost, in fact one of the most successful in terms of their own operational objectives, of the Daesh-linked groups in the modern day.
“If he was caught and the Kenyan authorities suspect him of this attack, what sort of consular assistance is being offered? We really don’t like these guys at home. We can offer to provide or provide contact for legal representation in Kenyan courts, but beyond that I can’t see them offering much assistance, particularly if in the first instance this person’s original passport had been cancelled.”
Warfaa was arrested with a 33-year-old named as Sakawawedin Abdullahi Mohammed, travelling on an Ethiopian passport.
Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the pair was heading to Garissa from Dajabula, the Daily Nation reported.
Another 10 suspects were arrested during a raid on the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Garissa County.
The Herald has also approached Kenyan police for comment.