KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian terrorist Ahmad Mustakim Abdul Hamid created history when he became one of the first foreign terrorists to be handed a 15-year jail term by the Somalian government for his acts of terrorism.
Until recently, little was known about this 34-year-old al-Shabab member, who became radicalised when he ventured to Yemen to study.
Last month, Ahmad Mustakim and Darren Anthony Brynes from Britain were jailed for being members of the terrorist group and entering the country illegally.
They became the first foreign extremists in Somalia to be convicted for being al-Shabab members.
Al-Shabab, which means The Youth in Arabic, is a terrorist group based in East Africa and Yemen, with links to al-Qaeda.
Ironically, Ahmad Mustakim, born in Kelantan, was raised near his hometown Pasir Putih’s police headquarters, where his mother worked as a clerk until her retirement.
His father, now deceased, had worked at the office of the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda).
By all accounts, Ahmad Mustakim led a normal childhood but began to be religious in his teens. It is believed that he was drawn to the kind of teachings in the Middle East.
His childhood in the district located at the bank of the Semerak River, about 30km south of Kota Baru, was described as ordinary, according to intelligence sources.
But all that began to change when he decided to pursue Islamic Studies at Iman University.
“The Iman University is located in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, where its founder and principal director Abdul Majid al-Zindani is classified by the US Treasury as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” said a source.
Sources said Ahmad Mustakim would have known about the reputation of the university when he chose to attend courses there.
In fact, in 2004, Abdul Majid was designated as a terrorist associated with al-Qaeda by both the US and United Nations. He was co-founder of Islah, a Yemeni political party, and was theological adviser to the late Osama bin Laden, who headed al-Qaeda.
It was there that Ahmad Mustakim – who claimed he sponsored his own studies – began to be involved with radical students, with the university regarded an “incubator of extremism”. Its graduates have been accused of killing American missionaries.
“Ahmad left Malaysia in June 2006, for Yemen, which would be the beginning of his journey into radicalism.
“The intelligence would be keen to know who his friends were at the university, which was a hotbed of radicalism,” said a source.
Hardly three years into his university stint, Ahmad Mustakim headed for Kenya to propagate religion. And in the same year, he travelled to Somalia after being inspired by al-Shabab.
It is also very likely that he connected with operatives of the terrorist group in Kenya.
“But it was a tough life. At one point, in 2015, he attempted to desert the al-Shabab in Somalia and was incarcerated.
“In 2018, we were informed that following his release by al-Shabab, he decided to go back to Yemen,” according to another informed source.
But the following year, he tried to sneak into Somalia via Bosaso, a city in the northeastern Bari province, not far from the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
Ahmad Mustakim and Brynes were arrested by the authorities in Puntland in April 2019. Puntland is an autonomous state in the region of northeast Somalia.
“Basically, his terrorism journey ended there.
“He could not give a convincing answer to the authorities who arrested him. What is a Malaysian doing there?” said an official.
In 2020, Ahmad Mustakim landed in Mogadishu prison, a heavily guarded facility with a notorious reputation for holding hardcore terrorists.
In fact, that same year, there was a shootout between jailed militants and security officers at the prison, which saw at least 20 people killed. The al-Shabab militants, who included those serving life sentences or awaiting execution after being sentenced to death, had tried to escape.
It has been reported that Ahmad Mustakim, who was believed to be trained in using guns and explosives, fought for al-Shabab in at least four clashes.
“He also allegedly offered to use his ability in providing simple medical expertise in first aid and health services to the terrorist group.”
Malaysian intelligence is believed to be keeping a close watch on Ahmad Mustakim’s case.
In 2014, police here arrested a senior operative of al-Shabab in Selangor and reportedly detected at least another five members who had entered Malaysia under the guise of furthering their studies.
It is not clear if Ahmad Mustakim will file an appeal against his conviction since he is allowed to do so under Somalian law, but he has access to legal aid.