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My 10-day ordeal as a terror suspect

A schoolboy who was arrested and thrown into a police cell has told of his 10-day ordeal as a terror suspect.

Seventeen-year-old Ali Muhsin Ali was seized in his classroom by three men from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.

They took him to Pangani police station where he was held throughout, apart from a brief visit to the Anti-Terror headquarters for questioning and a night in the cells at Kilimani.

At Pangani, he was slapped across the face then interrogated by teams of detectives who, on one occasion, threatened to kill him.

His ten days as a suspect in the Westgate terror attack began when three policemen called at his school, Murang’a Road Secondary on Monday, October 7.

As was his habit, Ali — also known as Shekue — had gone to the Pumwani  Riyadha mosque for morning prayers before going to school.

Accompanied head teacher

He recalled: “Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until three men accompanied by the principal stormed into our classroom.

“We were seated in an index arrangement before the principal asked everyone back to their sitting position with their school bags in hand,” he said.

According to Ali, all the students were asked to identify themselves to the three men. He told them he was Ali Muhsin Ali, but, “one of them actually declined that Ali Muhsin Ali were my names and asked for my school bag instead,” said Ali.

Ali said his bag had been stolen a week earlier while he was attending prayers at the mosque but he still had an old school one which one of his classmates identified as his.

The men took an interest in his books with Arabic writings and the ones with his nickname Shekue.

“I was taken to the principal’s office where I was frisked before being taken to the Pangani CID office, then to the station where I was booked into the occurrence book,” said Ali.

“That evening, at around 6pm, a policeman came to take a roll call of the detainees. When he read my name, he attacked me asking if I thought I was more brilliant than 40 million Kenyans. He then slapped me several times and ordered me to strip naked for a search. I was checked for any body marks,” Ali said.

As the other detainees were being led to the holding cells, Ali says he was stopped and the officer in charge asked another policeman to lock him up separately.

“He talked to me and advised that I should not despair,” he added.

It was not over for the student.

“At around 9pm, an armed officer came and asked me to talk. He threatened to kill me saying it was what he did best. He questioned me on the whereabouts of the terrorists and where I was hiding grenades,” he said.

The officer accused him of being hard-headed and promised to come in the wee hours to deal with him.

Ali said two officers arrived at around 10.30pm and asked the same questions.

In the morning, he was bundled in the boot of a Toyota Probox and taken to the ATPU headquarters where he met two suspects of Somali origin.

The two were interrogated before Ali was taken for questioning by a female officer, who he said, was more interested in his ethnicity than in grenades.

“She wasn’t convinced when I told her I was half Kamba and half Bajuni and dismissed me,” said Ali.

A friendly officer later asked him several other questions at 6pm before telling Ali they were done with him and would only take his fingerprints and photos before setting him free.

He spent that Tuesday night at Kilimani police station, and most of Wednesday in the holding cell before being called around 9pm and told he was free to go.