Usafi Mosque, which was raided on Friday night by security forces, was a training centre for Islamic extremism, with strong connections to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel outfit operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, PML Daily has learnt.
A total of 36 suspected terrorists were arrested and two others shot dead on Friday night as police, working with other security agencies, raided the mosque located near Kisenyi, a city suburb. Eighteen women and 94 children were rescued in the process.
And now it has emerged that for more than three years, the centre, located in Kiguli Village, Kisenyi III Parish, has been training children and women into rebel activities under the leadership of Faisan Abdullahaman. The sect is believed to be connected to Jamil Mukulu, the ADF leader, who is facing charges of terrorism and murder after he was arrested from DRC in 2016 and extradited to Uganda.
Abdullahaman is said to be constantly disguising himself so as to avoid detection by security forces. He also calls himself Hassan Musa. However, for the last three months, sources said he has not been seen in public, with some security sources saying he may have gone to DR Congo to re-establish contact with some remnants of the ADF, whose bases were bombed and destroyed by the UPDF in December 2017. However, they also believe that he could have died and secretly buried.
Highly placed security officials have told this website that the children and women who were rescued from the mosque during the raid were forcibly taken away from their mothers by some Muslim parents who were already radicalized.
Security officials allowed us access to one woman, whose two daughters were at the mosque at the time of the raid. The woman, whose details cannot be revealed for security reasons, told this website that her husband last year sold all his property and went with the two children to the mosque.
The woman reveals that attempts to convince him to return fell on deaf ears. “When I tried to call his phone, it was picked by Abdullhaman who also told me he did not know where my husband was,” the teary woman said.
At that moment, she reveals that she decided to go to the mosque where she was first denied access but on constant pleading, she was denied access to the mosque where she said she found children being poorly fed and tortured.
She says the key thing she identified in the mosque was a map of DR Congo and that children were being trained to master it and all its routes. The woman says she failed to pick her children at the time as the leaders of the mosque insisted that the one who brought them (her husband) was the one supposed to return.
This website also visited the area where the mosque is located and residents revealed that the activities of the Muslims at the mosque were always raising eyebrows.
“We were never allowed to pray from there and if you dared to go there, you were always asked very many questions. You would even be checked thoroughly,” said one resident, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The group belongs to the Shia Muslims, who constitute about 10% of all Muslims in the world, with a population estimated at between 154 and 200 million.
The group members are known to all don shot trousers and long beards and that the messages preached at the mosque are critical of President Museveni.
Residents also narrated that the children were indoctrinated in the small makeshift enclosures built around the shrine.
Former police boss Kale Kayihura is said to have avoided handling the matter reported to him earlier.
One security official, who refused to be named since he is not authorized to speak for the agency, revealed that for long, they had revealed the information about the group’s radicalization activities to former Police chief Kale Kayihura but that he treaded carefully on the matter, fearing that he would be misinterpreted as targeting the Islamic faith.
The security official revealed they believe that the group was behind a series of kidnaps and targeted killings of key personalities in the country.
Since 2015, a number of mysterious killings and assassinations have swept the country, leaving security agencies puzzled as to what could be the motive. They began with the murder of prominent Muslim leaders, among them Sheikhs Mustafa Bahiga, Hassan Kirya and Abdullah Muwaya. Major Muhammad Kiggundu was also shot and killed by unknown gunmen after leaving his home. Senior state prosecutor Joan Kagezi was also killed under similar circumstances as she was shot dead in Kiwatule, Kampala as she went home in 2015’
Amidst these killings, the mysterious attacks in Greater Masaka districts of Sembabule, Kalungu, Rakai, Bukomansimbi and others intensified. Unknown people would send leaflets to villages, promising to attack on a particular night, which they would do. Several people have been killed since then and the attacks still place to-date despite heavy security presence.
Former police spokesperson Andrew Kaweesi was also killed as he left his home in Kulambiro.
“These people were behind these attacks, which were planned so as to show that the government has failed,” the security official said.
“You can see that the method of attacks was the same. The attackers were often riding on boda bodas; they hit and run,” the official added.
Police said the raid came after receiving intelligence reports that one of the suspects in the murder of Magara was hiding in the mosque to evade arrest.
“I hope you are all aware that Susan Magara was killed and the security forces have been following. There was a key suspect, who was being followed and that suspect went to Usafi Mosque and that time we were only following that suspect. But in the process we found children whom we believe were kidnapped. In the process there was an engagement that resulted in the death of the two and serious injury to one of our own,” said Mr Abbas Byakagaba, the director of counter terrorism in police.
Internal Affairs minister Jeje Odongo, UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire and Counter Terrorism police director Abbas Byakagaba addressed a press conference on Saturday where the raid was explained.
A number of weapons were also seized during the mosque. These include 60 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, one bow and arrows, 23 double-edged pangas and one laptop.
Meanwhile, residents said more people were killed in the raid than those reported by police. The residents said the security operation started at 9pm on Friday and ended at around 3am on Saturday.
“The number of Muslims killed could be anywhere between nine and 20. It was a real battle, those guys inside had guns,”” one eyewitness said.