Cybercrime official testifies in Mbowe terrorism case

By James Magai

By Fortune Francois

Dar es Salaam. Cybercrime specialist and police inspector Innocent Ndowo told the court yesterday that Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe conducted an electronic communication with a government insider from January 2020.

Mr. Mbowe, along with three others, face six charges, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism.

Mr. Mbowe faces a separate charge of financing acts of terrorism.

They are accused of conspiring to blow up several gas stations across the country and attempting to harm former Hai District Commissioner Lengai Ole Sabaya.

They are accused of having organized meetings at the Aishi Hotel in Kilimanjaro and various other locations in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Morogoro where they conspired to commit the said offenses on various dates between May 1 and August 5, 2020.

As the hearing continued yesterday at the Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court of Tanzania, Mr Ndowo, who was appearing as a witness for the prosecution, told the Court that Mr Mbowe had made several communications with Mr. Denis Urio via Telegram and WhatsApp.

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Mr. Ndowo maintained that Mr. Mbowe had also made financial transactions with Mr. Urio.

Alongside Mr. Mbowe, are accused: Halfan Bwire Hassan, Mohamed Abdillahi Ling’wenya and Adam Kasekwa.

The three are former commandos who were relieved of their duties with the Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF) for various reasons, including health problems due to their service in peacekeeping missions.

Mr Ndowo told the Court yesterday that on August 13, 2020, he received four phone calls from the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), ordering him to probe communications.

He told the court he was required to investigate all communications made via WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, short message services (SMS), normal phone calls and financial transactions on the defendant’s devices. .

He was also tasked with investigating the registration names of the telephone devices used and seeking any other information that might simplify the investigation process.

Mr Ndowo told the court yesterday that during the communications investigation he discovered that Mr Mbowe was in constant communication with Mr Urio from January 2020 and that the communications were through text messages, calls normal telephone calls and through the social media channels of WhatsApp and Telegram.

Mr. Urio is a lieutenant in the TPDF, who the prosecution says is the one who revealed that Mr. Mbowe approached him to help him find former soldiers to be used for security purposes for his party.

It is also accused that Lt. Urio was the one who received the money from Mr. Mbowe so that he could pass it on to the fighters as payment for carrying out the alleged acts of terrorism.

The evidence, presented to the Court yesterday by Mr. Ndowo, shows, among other things, how Mr. Mbowe and Mr. Urio planned to catch the fighters.

It also shows the latter telling the former that he had already unearthed two fighters and that he had also found others in other regions.

The evidence also shows that Lt. Urio asked Mr. Mbowe about the payments for the fighters and that the latter assured that there was no way he could not pay them.

The evidence also shows that Lt. Urio demanded 500,000 shillings from Mr. Mbowe as “compensation” for the fighters which the latter sent electronically.

Later, Lt. Urio warned Mr. Mbowe against sending money directly and preferred that the money be sent through a mobile money agent or through a third party’s phone number and that he (Urio) go get it from there.

Mr Mbowe agreed with the advice and the two then agreed to start using Telegram, which they said was the most secure platform.

Lt. Urio informed Mr. Mbowe that the engaged fighters were en route from Morogoro to Dar es Salaam. Mr. Mbowe told Lt. Urio to tell the fighters to contact Mr. Mbowe’s driver as soon as they arrived in Mlandizi so that he (the driver) could pick them up in Ubungo.

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