NAIROBI, Kenya — The family of an American investor of Somali origin whose body was found with torture wounds days after he went missing in Nairobi wants Kenya’s director of public prosecutions to run a separate investigation from one being done by police.
In a letter sent to the prosecutors’ office through their lawyer, relatives of Bashir Mohamed Mohamud, 36, question the behavior of police after Mohamud disappeared in an apparent abduction, and they call for a separate investigation to run concurrently with that of the police.
Mohamud, a father of two daughters, came to the United States as a refugee in the early 2000s, then moved to the Seattle area in 2008 after graduating from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where he studied biomedical engineering, according to cousin Omar Osman.
Mohamud began working as an engineer for Boeing in 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile, simultaneously earning a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from Washington State University, graduation records show. He became an American citizen roughly a decade ago, Osman said.
Mohamud returned to Somalia in 2014 to found a construction company, Infinity Development Limited, that soon expanded to Kenya, where it won contracts from the Kenyan government and international aid agencies, according to the company’s website and public contracting records.
Mohamud’s killing has shaken the Seattle-area Somali community, said Dr. Ahmed Ali, the executive director of Somali Health Board and a friend of Mohamud’s. Not only was Mohamud generous and well-loved, the seeming lack of attention paid by American media and lawmakers to the strange circumstances of Mohamud’s disappearance and death, Ali said, has led many Somali Americans to believe that “any of us could just disappear and there will just be nothing. No one will care.”
“If this had been someone who is not Black, not an immigrant, there would have been a different response,” Ali said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions. We understand this [occurred in] a foreign county. But regardless, he was an American citizen.”
In their letter last week to the Kenyan prosecutor, Mohamud’s family questioned the time it took police to ask them to positively identify Mohamud, when he had been identified days before they were notified. They also asked why the shell of Mohamud’s burned Range Rover was taken away within minutes after the vehicle was linked to him.
The family delivered the letter even as local media published stories quoting unnamed sources without evidence insinuating that Mohamud was funding extremism through money transfers made by his construction company.
Human rights defenders in Kenya have previously illustrated how police linked slaying victims to extremism or robberies to explain unsolved killings.
Wilfred Ollal, the coordinator of a network of community-based social justice centers in Kenya, said people disappear every week before their bodies are found in the countryside, while others are never found.
The killings and forced disappearances are rampant in low-income areas of the capital, but nobody is immune, he said.
“Our interventions save some, but the bodies of others are found in rivers,” Ollal said Saturday.
Police, without producing any evidence, attempt to explain such killings on social media pages associated with the force by saying the person killed was a criminal and he would have bribed his way to freedom, if arrested and prosecuted. Both claims have been proven false by the media and human rights activists.
According to rights group Missing Voices, Kenyan police killed 157 people in 2020 and 10 people disappeared without a trace after being arrested.
According to Mohamud’s family and police, he was abducted on May 13 by unknown assailants as he drove from a mall in Nairobi’s wealthy Lavington neighborhood. The family reported him missing three days later, and police reported finding his body the same day in Kerugoya, a town 78.91 miles north of the city.
The family questions why they were not informed until May 22 when police had identified the body as Mohamud’s by at least May 18.
An autopsy carried out by Kenya’s chief government pathologist revealed that Mohamud was strangled. The autopsy report said the body showed signs of torture that included blunt head trauma and burn marks, suspected to have been caused by a vehicle’s cigarette lighter.