A rogue policeman is believed to have been behind the killing of seven police officers in Kapenguria in Western Kenya on Thursday. By NJERI KIMANI.
The trigger happy policeman, identified as Abdihakim Maslah, went berserk and opened fire on his seven colleagues, including his boss, Vitalis Ochidi.
A statement from the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinett had earlier indicated that the station was under attack from Al Shabaab militants.
“The gunman … turned out to be a local police officer who, for yet unknown reasons, went berserk and grabbed a firearm,” police spokesman George Kinoti said in a statement released to the press on Thursday evening.
According to the report, Maslah, a station guard, came back to the station in the wee hours of Thursday morning only a few hours after finishing his Wednesday shift and for unknown reasons started shooting his colleagues.
When he walked into the station, nothing unusual ticked in his colleagues’ minds, as he was always known to come for his early morning Islam prayers.
It was, however, the beginning of a 10-hour nightmare that would end with seven officers dead, including an official from the Recce Squad.
Maslah, who graduated from Police College in Kiganjo in 2013, had been on the radar of police over his behaviour. On this day, his mission was apparently to free his friend, Omar Okwaki Eumod, a teacher at Victoria Primary School who had been arrested on suspicion that he had been recruiting people into the millitia group.
However, his plan was botched when his colleague confronted him as he tried to open the cells, but he overpowered him and shot him several times.
“Maslah became angry and frustrated that he could not free his friend, and grabbed the gun from the duty officers in the five o’clock incidence. Two officers rushed to the scene but he tricked them into believing the dead one was the one behind the shooting. When they walked towards the body, he sprayed them with shots from behind,” said an officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ochidi, who had earlier refused to grant a transfer to Maslah, responded to a distress call from his officers. He was sprayed with bullets by his junior, who had taken a sniper position and was shooting at any person on the site.
“The gunman, who had a turban that covered his entire face, leading to the previous suspicions that he was an extremist, sadly killed six officers within the station building,” said a police statement.
The police officers were helpless as they had returned all their armoury to the station.
Omar Okwaki Eumod survived the ordeal without a single scratch.
Only one officer based at the station survived the bloodbath. No prisoners were injured during the fire exchange.
President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the killings in a statement on Friday, saying that the country remains strong.
“This is a country of law and order, not violence and hatred. We will not allow ourselves to be shaken, or to be divided, by the foul deeds of a single man. Today, I mourn with the families of the young men who died in Kapenguria defending their nation against a depraved killer. We do not know what led the killer to his foul and evil deeds, but Kenyans can be certain that my government’s security and investigative agencies will do all within their power to discover what motivated this attack,” said the president.
The killings have sparked fears over the radicalisation of the Kenyan security system with many expressing concern that many of the security forces could be on the payroll of the militia.
Security expert Richard Tutah said the attack indicated a weakness in the security system.
He pointed out that loopholes such as poor pay and recruitment practices could have led to officers being enticed by militia groups.
“All they look at is the height and how fast you can run. They also demand a low aggregate plus in the examinations and their training basically involves shooting,” he added.
Tutah said the storing of ammunition in the police stations was also a danger since many of the vigilante groups “are seeking to increase their weapons”, he added.
“It’s a clear indication that there is a problem with our system. Why do they keep the armoury in a place that is not easily accessible to them? The police also live very far away from the station, yet they should be in a location where it is easy to rush to the station when their services are needed. Police recruitment is also done shoddily,” he added.
Nakuru Youth advisor to the Governer Kimani wa Kimani urged an overhaul of the security system, saying it was unfortunate that a gunman could be the person mandated to protect them.
“Kenya is not safe. If our policemen can go rogue and shoot at people randomly in a police station, I wonder where people are supposed to run for safety,” he added. DM
Photo: Police officers with tear gas canisters prepare to charge as they face opposition supporters protesting against Member of Parliament (MP) Moses Kuria, in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, 14 June 2016. EPA/DAI KUROKAWA
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