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How Forensic DNA Analysis Helped Track Al-Qaida Terrorists in East Africa

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Image of Al Qaeda in Somalia

“Forensic DNA analysis plays a critical role in tracking down criminals,” Dr. John Kimani Mungai, a Forensic Scientist at the Kenyan Government Chemists Department said as he briefed African Society of Forensic Medicine (ASFM) summit on how this technology aided in tracking down East African Al-Qaida terrorists.

Themed “Harmonization of Evidence-Based Forensic Science Practice in Africa- A Holistic Approach Towards a Safer Continent,”  the summit started in Kigali City, on March 7 and will run through March 10.

According to forensic scientists, using the DNA and picture analysis, investigators were able to trace and know Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, chief of al Qaeda in East Africa and mastermind of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He was killed in Somalia in June 2011, just a month after the death of his boss−Osama bin Laden.

Mohammed who led the blasts that killed 224 people in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was killed by Somalia government forces after he was noticed carrying sophisticated weapons, maps, and tens of thousands of dollars.

According to the reports, Gen. Abdikarim Yusuf Dhagabadan, then Somalia’s deputy army chief, said officials at first did not know who the dead man was.

 “We buried him,” he continued. “But, shortly after reviewing his paperwork, (we) unearthed his remains and collected his DNA and photos. Suddenly, we discovered that he was the individual that American officials were looking for.

According to Dr. Bruce Budowle, A professor of Microbiology, forensics is an integral part of the modern-day criminal investigations and there needs establishment of ethical considerations, but also legal frameworks around forensic science in any country.

 “Informed consent is not only an ethical and legal obligation but is also necessary to ensure that forensic DNA evidence is admissible in court. The success of the forensic enterprise rests on trust and confidence in the objectivity, impartiality, and competence of those engaged in forensic activities,” Dr. Budowle added.

The four-day event aims at discussing several topics including human tissue banking, Management of the dead, Identification of deceased migrants, Disaster response and management, Prevention of gender-based violence, crime scene management and harmonized evidence-based forensic science practice.

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