12 March 2006

Kenya: More Questions Over Alleged Squad of Mercenaries

Nairobi — Police detailed to investigate the alleged presence of Russian mercenaries in the country have not questioned any of the suspects - despite circulation of copies of Armenian passports of two of the men.

"We only saw some documents displayed on a news report on television on Friday evening but police have not received any document," a senior CID officer said.

The Sunday Nation can reveal today that the men Langata MP Raila Odinga claims are mercenaries working for the Government are two Armenian "businessmen."

Travel documents indicate the two men - aged 33 and 36 - arrived in the country early this year from Dubai, but have also visited Kenya in the past on missions that remain a mystery.

Investigations have established that the suspects have changed their residence four times since they arrived in Kenya separately on January 23 and January 24.

On arrival, they booked in at a five-star city hotel before they moved to the upmarket Runda Estate in early February.

A leading city hotel confirmed yesterday that one of the men had been a guest there on different occasions since 2003.

They allegedly moved to Lenana Road after Mr Odinga gave details of the Runda house to police.

Runda residents in the vicinity of the single-storey mansion confirmed to Sunday Nation that a truck pulling a 40-ft container entered the estate at around 9.15 pm on Thursday night and moved all the household goods.

The relocation from Runda capped a week of dramatic happenings in the palatial residence and its vicinity, including an assault on an alleged police officer in circumstances that remain unclear.

Not interviewed yet

Police have not interviewed the two men despite the furore and have dismissed Mr Odinga's claims even after inviting him to record a statement on Wednesday.

On arrival in January, the two men were granted a two-year category H permit, which is for professionals or foreigners investing in the country.

They paid Sh60,000 each and posted a bond of a similar amount for the permits.

A Mombasa politician and businessman yesterday denied being among those who had been seen in the company of the alleged mercenaries.

Following the March 2 raid by hooded police officers on the Standard Group offices, there have been claims of involvement of foreigners.

Mr Odinga displayed faded photocopies of the passports of the two foreigners on Friday, saying they were Armenians and not Russians as earlier claimed.

But police say they have not received such documents and do not, therefore, know who the alleged mercenaries are.

"We have not received any documents or fresh information regarding the presence of mercenaries. We only saw some documents displayed on a news report on television on Friday evening but police have not received any document," a senior CID officer said.

It would be easy for police, through the Immigration Department, to find out who the people are, how they entered the country and who posted bond for them when they entered the country. The category 'H' visa issued to them would also identify the kind of business they intend to engage in and the name of the company, if any.

On Friday, police officers led by the Deputy Nairobi Provincial Criminal Investigations Officer, Mr Isaiah Osugo, began investigations into the alleged existence of mercenaries as ordered by the Commissioner of Police, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali.

But even as the investigations were going on, the CID boss Joseph Kamau were dismissing the story of the alleged mercenaries as a lie.

CID boss Joseph Kamau, whose team is supposed to investigate Mr Odinga's allegations, on Wednesday dismissed the mercenary claims as "untrue" and urged Kenyans not to take them seriously.

Mr Kamau said this as Mr Odinga made a formal complaint to the Commissioner of Police, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali.

Mr Kamau said the MP was spreading propaganda, which should not be taken seriously.

In a statement signed on his behalf by Senior Superintendent Gideon Kibunja, Mr Kamau dismissed the MP's dossier as "baseless, wild, unsubstantiated."

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