THE government has issued an ultimatum to owners of illegal and unregistered firearms to surrender them immediately after a recent operation netted 304 such weapons.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi, said at a press conference that following increased use of firearms in criminal activities, an operation was conducted between January and September this year where 876 occurrences were recorded and 62 firearms stolen.
"We are giving a month long grace period to anyone having an illegal and unregistered firearm to return it and after that, stern measures will be taken against anyone found in possession of such," he said.
Dr Nchimbi said that during the January - September exercise, 876 cases of armed robbery were reported that resulted in loss of 138 lives including six police officers and loss of property worth 4.5bn/-. He said that the statistics were a clear indication that there were people within the society who owned illegal and unregistered firearms.
"Let me take this opportunity to call upon everyone in unlawful possession of firearms to take them to police stations, heads of divisions and villages, district executives and heads of religious institutions, no action will be taken within this grace period," he assured.
Dr Nchimbi, however, said that the case will be different after the grace period and that another serious operation will be conducted nationwide and that all culprits will be prosecuted.
He asked the public and the media to work together with the police in disseminating information that will lead to the apprehension of criminal groups living within society.