A Mombasa High Court has declared that the 2012 killing of a family man by a CIA-backed Recce Company squad was “unwarranted…unjustifiable and unlawful”. The court also awarded 6.5 million Ksh in damages to his estate.

The judgement comes after legal action against the National Police Service, Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General, taken by Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI)  in the public interest.

“I am convinced that the shooting of the deceased, Omar Faraj, was totally unwarranted”, Justice Olga Sewe said in her judgement. She described the night raid by the Recce paramilitary team to be an “unjustifiable and unlawful invasion of their home…without any reasonable or probable cause for suspicion of any offence committed by Omar Faraj and his wife.”

MUHURI took the legal action after a report by British investigative journalist, Namir Shabibi, which revealed that Faraj was killed in a night raid by a paramilitary commando team created, trained, equipped, and guided by the CIA on so-called ‘counterterrorism’ operations.

Shabibi’s investigation, published by Declassified UK in 2020, revealed that the Rapid Response Team (RRT) – which formally belongs to the Recce Company, but is effectively run by the CIA – had killed Faraj in a case of mistaken identity. The commandos had in fact been hunting Fuad Abubakar Manswab but were led to Faraj’s family home in Mombasa on the night of 28 October 2012 by an informant working with Kenya’s NIS.

Faraj’s widow, Rahma Ali, recalled watching the RRT commandos open fire on her husband, who was balanced on a flowerpot trying to climb his garden wall, as he fled out of fear. The RRT paramilitaries shot him in the temple, and Faraj fell back on top of his wife, blood streaming from his head. Fearing that the commandos would kill her too, Ali, who was covered in her husband’s blood, said she played dead next to him. The M4 carbines used by the RRT to murder Faraj had been supplied by the CIA.

The Kenyan government never acknowledged its role in Faraj’s killing, instead claiming that security forces killed “terrorists” after being fired upon. It was similarly unabashed about the fate of Titus Nabiswa, the informant who wrongly led the commandos to Faraj’s house that night. Nabiswa’s body was later found dumped, killed by a gunshot wound to the head in an apparent summary execution by Kenyan police. Both Kenya’s NIS and ATPU were also present on the operation that killed Faraj.

In his petition, MUHURI board member, Khelef Khalifa said that the failure by the police to take action to ensure justice “was an affront, not only to the rule of law and the fundamental tenets of democracy, but also to the rights of the deceased and his family.”

Justice Sewe noted in her judgement that the NPS did not contest the facts of the raid in the early hours of 28 Oct 2012, as established by MUHURI and Declassified UK’s investigations. She added that the NPS, DPP and AG failed to provide a factual response to the petitioners’ supporting affidavits. After MUHURI stated its case, the evidential burden shifted to the police to demonstrate that the shooting was warranted, but “not a whiff” of explanation was forthcoming, Sewe observed.

Faraj’s widow, Rahma Ali asserted that the court's rulings vindicated her husband's innocence and denounced his summary execution as a violation of his right to life. She expressed:

"It's a bitter-sweet moment. Bitter because my husband can never return. Sweet because the court affirmed his innocence. His killing was unjustified. This wasn't about seeking compensation, but about affirming that an innocent man cannot be murdered without consequence. This is the initial step towards ensuring accountability for those who took my husband's life. They must face justice."

Rahma Ali holds a photo of her slain husband, Omar Faraj, taken on their wedding night. (Credit: Namir Shabibi)

Official government records obtained by Declassified UK show that the CIA’s relationship to the Recce Company dates to the 1980s. After 9/11, the CIA rapidly developed a network of paramilitary-police partnerships in over sixty countries, which one European Union investigation described as a “global spider’s web”. The RRT special squad was itself created in 2004, in a joint CIA-NIS-GSU effort, and has worked with the CIA on tactical counter-terrorism operations, including renditions and kill-capture operations.

The RRT paramilitaries, who are trained by the CIA in the United States, use covert tactics such as fake number plates and often operate under the cover of night. They also disguise themselves as aid workers on operations in Kenya’s refugee camps. The RRT sets out to kill or capture targets, largely provided by the CIA and NIS, but also Britain’s MI6, Shabibi’s investigation found. One commando said of the RRT’s tactics:

“When we were trained on threats, we were taught human rights come later. If you have this bad guy and you cannot get him for interrogation, then you’d better execute [him]”

Commenting on the Declassified UK’s 2020 investigation, former US ambassador Michael Ranneberger said:

“All of this, of course, is linked to the culture of impunity, and heavy-handed tactics contribute towards radicalisation.”

Khelef Khalifa, MUHURI’s board member commented:

“The High Court judgement is a milestone in accountability for abuses in Kenya: it's the first time a victim's family has been awarded compensation for killing in counterterrorism, despite 20 years of state murder, enforced disappearances and renditions. I applaud Justice Sewe’s bravery, which is just the first step in holding Kenyan police to account over its contempt for the law. But we must remember: the monetary award does not bring Omar Faraj back to his family, nor does it hold the criminal RRT, NIS and ATPU officers to account for his murder. These forces have repeatedly shown a preference for spilling blood over using the due process, and the murder of Faraj is just one of countless cases of state crime against the Kenyan people. MUHURI fully intends to hold the individual officers concerned liable for Faraj’s murder, as it seeks to uphold the constitution and rule of law. I trust the Kenyan judiciary will remain as impartial as Justice Sewe has shown it can be.”   


  • A copy of the Mombasa High Court’s judgement can be provided upon request.
  • Additional comment from the family of Omar Faraj can be sought via MUHURI.
  • Contact with British investigative journalist, Namir Shabibi, can be sought via MUHURI.
  • MUHURI contact details: +254 734 753 200

Photos can be used on condition of credit.