When Jermaine Grant was arrested at Mtopanga Kisauni in Mombasa eight years ago, the anti-terrorist police had very little information on how dangerous the Briton was.
Martin Otieno, Head of Anti-Terrorist Police Unit in Mombasa says before Grant was arrested, they were looking for Fuad Abubakar and Farida Islam, not him. They too could not associate him with British woman Samantha Lewthwaite, also known as the White Widow and one of the world’s most wanted terrorism suspects.
“We did not know him. In fact, we arrested him just because he was with Fuad Abubakar. We thought he was just some local from Old Town who was enjoying a motorbike ride with Fuad,” Otieno says.
After some interrogation, and a cross-reference to the British Counter Terrorism Police, the cover was blown. Grant was one of the most dangerous men in the world.
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His links with the terrorist cells in Somalia prompted the State to solicit for five New Scotland Yard detectives to assist in the investigations.
The detectives sent were lead investigator Inspector Lisa Narman, Seageant John Reiley, Constable Steve Ball, explosive expert Lonar Phillys and finger prints expert Orelette Hunt.
The British bomb expert later testified that the chemicals that were recovered from Grant’s house can make bombs that can bring down Bima Tower or Ambalal House building.
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Head of Government Chemist Simon Munguti said the chemicals could make a bomb known as Triacetone triperoxide.
“This solution is unstable and dangerous and any movement like dropping or touching it can detonate it,” Munguti said.
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Otieno says before Grant’s arrest, they got intelligence that a group of terrorists were preparing to bomb some targets in Mombasa, including Likoni Ferry and certain hotels.
“Initially, we were only looking for Fuad and Farida following the intelligence we got. Later, a source tipped us that the suspects were going to Mtopanga to meet and plot the bombing,” he says.
He adds that they then started trailing the suspects on November 14, 2011.
“On December 19, 2011, we arrested Grant just because he was with Fuad who was in the radar of the police from December 13, 2011,” Otieno says.
Fuad and Grant were riding on a motorbike in Mtopanga when they were arrested. Otieno says the police had been looking for Fuad since the Mombasa Paradise Hotel bomb attack on November 28, 2002 when 15 people were killed.
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The police believed Fuad is the one who piloted the speed boat that helped the terrorists who had bombed the hotel to escape to Somalia.
After the arrest, the suspects were escorted to their house at Mwandoni Kishada grounds where Warda Brek, who had just been married to Grant, opened the door. Police found several containers with chemicals, which were in the process of being mixed to make bombs.
The chemicals recovered were acetone, urea, sulphur sublime, hydrogen peroxide, lead nitrate, lemon nail polish, batteries, a wireless electric switch, small electric wire and a ruler.
After the recovery, Otieno says his team went to a Swahili House, just 100 metres from Grant’s house and found a woman with four children. They later learnt the woman was Lewthwaite.
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Otieno says, on this day, they were particularly keen on recovery of hand grenades and suicide vests from the house, but they did not find any.
The police say at first, Grant disguised himself as Peter Joseph, a Canadian, but his identity as a British citizen became known during interrogation.
Grant, Fuad, Warda and a Frank Ngala were later charged with being in possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Fuad, however, jumped bail and fled to Somalia after he was released on a Sh20 million bond.
The court has since issued a warrant of arrest for him.
Chief Magistrate Joyce Gandani, who presided over the case for eight years, has convicted Grant of being in possession of explosives. She, however, acquitted Warda and Ngala of all charges.
Gandani said the prosecution had proved Grant was found with the explosives because he was the owner of the house as proved by 18 witnesses.
Grant will be sentenced on May 9.
Deputy DPP Jacob Ondari, through State lawyer Alice Ochola, has asked for the proceedings of the case to appeal against the decision to acquit Warda and Ngala.
Grant’s lawyer Chacha Mwita said he will appeal against his conviction.
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