Over 100 arrested in massive Garissa police crackdown
Relatives of some of the 19 people arrested during a security operation in Garissa. [Photo: Boniface Ongeri/Standard]
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
A battle-hardened team from the National Police Service has rounded up over 100 people in Garissa in the on-going security operation in the town.
The officers from the General Service Unit (GSU) and the Rapid Deployment Unit of the Administration Police began an operation to flush out suspects and search for illegal weapons.
It follows a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the police to end the string of killings in the town targeting security officers and civilians.
Police say they will sustain the operation until residents of Garissa can live without fear. Many homes and business establishments were not spared as the heavily armed security officers engaged in a door-to-door search. Police have blamed the killings on sympathisers of Al Shabaab and corrupt elements with links to the force and some powerful businessmen out to settle scores.
The operation came a day after the local Criminal Investigation Department (CID) boss and nine others, including Customs officers and chiefs, were interdicted on suspicion they were involved in illegal activities in the town.
Internal Security Permanent Secretary Mutea Iringo confirmed the interdictions pending further investigations.
The PS said the Government would streamline and closely monitor operations of taxi and boda- boda operators, including limiting the latter’s working hours to between 6.00am and 6.00pm.
Uhuru ordered the crackdown after unknown gunmen attacked the Holiday Inn Hotel in the town, killing 10 people and seriously injuring three others.
By the time of going to press, North Eastern region police chief Charlton Mureithi said 19 suspects had been detained.
He also admitted that many of those picked up yesterday were found to be illegal aliens with no direct connection to the killings.
The GSU and AP units were also armed with landmine detectors. Initially, there was anxiety when the security personnel began the operation, with most residents staying at home.
There were even reports that some residents were fleeing the town fearing possible harassment by the officers.
Memories here are still fresh of the carnage that followed the killing of three Kenya Defence Forces officers last year.
But Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim urged the residents not to flee out of fear of the security operation.
“Residents should co-operate with the officers and allow them to inspect their premises,” he said.
Maalim noted that the town has been mapped out for easy operations and that the security officials on the border with Somalia are placed on high alert in case criminals opt to flee across to the other side.
“We have also increased security checks along the road to nab criminals fleeing the operation”, he said.
Maalim added that besides the dusk-to-dawn curfew on motorcycles, the Government would not restrict movement because it may hurt the town’s economy.
The Government has offered cash reward of between Sh50,000 and Sh100,000 to any member of the public who provides information on criminal gangs operating in the town, leading to their arrest.
Maalim said that ultimately the security of the county depends on the cooperation between the police and the community.
“This is an operation that will last many days to get illegal immigrants, weapons and criminals. We urge for cooperation from the locals,” said the police boss.
“We can see hundreds of police officers on the streets and have been moving from house to house looking for suspected terrorists,” a caller from Garissa told The Standard.
Another witness said the local bus stop was full of passengers trying to flee the town for Nairobi.
Police bosses in Nairobi said commanders on the ground were watching over their juniors to prevent human rights abuses.
Security agents will also closely monitor visitors booked in hotels and those renting residential houses, arrest all aliens for repatriation after conviction in courts and enhance patrols and mount roadblocks.
Garissa and other local towns have been the targets of terrorists who kill innocent citizens and security officers using guns and grenades.
The incidents started in October 2011 after the Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia to fight the Al-Shabaab terror group.
Motives advanced for the recent spate of killings include business rivalry as traders jostle to control the cartels that smuggle sugar worth millions of shillings from Somalia port of Kismayu to Kenya.
Mr David Kimaiyo, the Inspector General of the National Police Service termed the killings of innocent people as cruel. It is not clear if the changes will stop the killings because top police commanders in the vast province bordering Somalia have been removed three times since the KDF operation, but the attacks have persisted.