Police in Malindi are, for the third day, holding 21 youth they arrested at a Madrassa in Chumani without presenting them in court.
The young men, aged between 15 and 20 years, were seized when officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit raided the Madrassa on Friday evening.
The officers suspected the group drawn from Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Isiolo were engaging in activities that border on terrorism.
But on Tuesday, a Muslim agency and their families asked the officers to explain the whereabouts of the suspects.
“We want to be told where our children are because most of them are below 15 years and they have been held in different areas since their arrest on Friday,” Sharif Hussein, Supkem National Organising Secretary, said.
“Their families have been subjected to unnecessary suffering by the police.”
The youths, he said, had gathered to study Quran and were first accommodated at Chumani Quran Resource Centre but had to be moved to the madrassa to create room for orphaned girls.
“That forced the youths to move out of the centre on Monday last week and were accommodated by Mzee Sharrif Idarus, who runs a hotel and a cashew nut processing factory and a mosque on the opposite side,” he said.
But on Friday evening, anti-terror detectives went to Mzee Idarus madrassa and arrested him together with the youths and a Muslim teacher.
The suspects, he said, were taken for interrogation at the county Directorate of Criminal Investigation headquarters in Malindi.
“Mr Idarus was released on Friday evening but was again arrested the same night and taken to Kijipwa Police Station," said Mr Hussein.
"On Saturday, they were taken to Malindi for interrogation. They are still being held up to now and we don’t know what the police are up to.”
The organising-secretary said the youths had come to study Quran at the centre and wondered whether studying the holy book is a sin.
One of the parents, Osman Farah, from Masalani, Ijara, said his son had been coming to centre for the last two years to study the holy book.
“On Friday evening I received a phone call that my son was among those who had been arrested. I came and after meeting the detectives, we were assured that our children will be released but nothing is happening at the moment,” he said.
Kilifi Directorate of Criminal Investigations Officer Christopher Chesoli confirmed that the youths were arrested following a tip-off.
He said that the youths were being detained in different centres after being profiled at the multi-agency command centre in Malindi.
“We are just waiting for the report so that we can release them... They are in good care and there is no cause for alarm,” he told the Nation.
“They will be released upon the end of our investigations.”
Police, he said, were concerned that most of the youths were above 18 years and they were coming from different parts of the country.
“The county security committee had to sit and establish their stay in that centre. We wanted to know if their assembly was a general madrassa training or there was a hidden agenda.
Mr Chesoli said among those who were arrested was the owner of the centre and a Tanzanian man who was cooking for them.
“We are only taking precautions because of the increasing cases of radicalisation of the youths in this region,” he said.
“We are only waiting for the report from our command centre and then know the next cause of action.”