Investigation: Inside the Hunt for Susan Magara’s Abductors

investigation inside the hunt for susan magaras abductors
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On February 7, 2018, Susan Magara, a 28 year-old woman, was abducted on Kabaka Anjagala Road in Mengo as she was driving home to Lungujja. Her car was later discovered abandoned near her residence.

Nine individuals found themselves standing trial for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Susan Magara, with Yusuf Lubega among them. The accused included Abubakar Kyewolwa, Hussein Wasswa, Muzamiru Ssali, Hassan Kato-Miiro, Amir Ismail Bukenya, Musa Buvumbo, Hajara Nakandi, and Mahad Kisalita, the former imam of Usafi makeshift mosque in Mengo-Kisenyi.

In a testimony as the 10th prosecution witness on October 31, 2023, Frank Nyakairu, aged 52 and a Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) operative, disclosed a pivotal method employed to apprehend the kidnappers. Nyakairu revealed that by analyzing the call data from the kidnappers’ telephone numbers used to demand a ransom, they were led to Yusuf Lubega’s mother, who was connected to one of the registered telephone numbers.

Lubega’s mother, unwittingly tricked, identified Yusuf Lubega as the user of the telephone number traced to Usafi Mosque. In an elaborate ruse, Lubega’s brother was instructed to call him, informing him that their mother had been apprehended. They claimed that her release could be secured upon payment of a sh50,000 ransom. As they descended upon Usafi Mosque, Lubega was spotted standing at the doorway. However, a chaotic turn of events saw him flee back into the mosque, where another individual emerged, wielding a machete, and attacked a security personnel.

Following Lubega’s capture, he confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Susan Magara and revealed the involvement of his co-accused. Lubega conveyed that Magara had initially been marked for kidnapping a week earlier, after attending a birthday celebration. On that occasion, she was accompanied by others, leading to the withdrawal of their surveillance team.

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The court was informed that Magara had been held captive by Hussein Wasswa, Miiro, Kyewolwa, and Nakandi. Musa Buvumbo, a medical assistant, had amputated two of her fingers and provided medical care before her eventual murder. Additionally, an alarming discovery was made inside the mosque, with 94 children aged 3 to 12, 30 adults, and a tunnel suspected to be used as a detention facility.

Nyakairu further disclosed that Nakandi had previously been arrested in connection with a kidnap for ransom, but her release was influenced by her brother, who was associated with the State House legal department. Nakandi was identified as the one who exchanged $200,000 for Ugandan shillings, with part of it being used to acquire land in Buikwe and Masuliita for the alleged burial of kidnap victims.

Yakub Byensi, a former combatant with the Allied Democratic Forces, eluded capture and was believed to be residing on one of the islands in Buikwe district. Furthermore, it was revealed that Nakandi’s car had been employed to transport Susan Magara and was subsequently placed in police custody.

Following Magara’s abduction, Frank Nyakairu was instructed by his superior, Brig. Charles Asiimwe, to collaborate closely with Magara’s family to determine her whereabouts. Initially, the family considered paying a $200,000 (sh700m) ransom. However, this changed when Immaculate Magara, Susan’s mother, received a call from the kidnappers, leading to Nyakairu’s investigative efforts.

Chief State Attorney Joseph Kyomuhendo and Senior State Attorney Irene Nakimbugwe were the prosecutors in the case.

Susan Magara’s kidnapping on that fateful February night led to a demand for an exorbitant $1 million ransom from her family, ultimately ending in tragedy despite a sh700 million ransom payment.

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