A joint manhunt launched by police in Geita and Arusha regions has nabbed one of the criminals in the recent wave of child kidnapping and extortion of money across the country.
The suspect was caught at a guesthouse known as Shitungulu in Geita district, holding ransom a two-year old child in exchange for 4m/- he had demanded from the parents.
A special team of thirteen police officers; nine from Arusha region led by police officer Amani and four from Geita region led by police officer James, managed to surround the guesthouse where the suspect was holed-up with the child, Justine Ombeni, aged two years, whom he abducted during Idd al Adha celebrations (September 1).
Geita regional police commander Mponjoli Lodson confirmed the arrest, saying the suspect was apprehended at around 8pm on night of September 3 - saying Justine was abducted in the afternoon while playing with other children outside his house.
The suspect distributed sweets to three of the children and then took Justine with him, claiming he was going to buy him some juice.
Justine's parents filed a police 'missing persons' report four hours after the kidnapping and on reaching home, the father, Mr Ombeni Mshana, found a message directing him to call a phone number that was scribbled on a piece of paper.
The kidnappers demanded 4m/- as ransom through mobile phone transaction, M-Pesa and warned the father against involving the police else he would receive his child's limbs.
While the suspect was busy demanding for ransom in Geita, police in Arusha were in hot pursuit searching for the kidnapper who had earlier kidnapped four children in the tourists region and received 300,000/- as ransom through mobile transactions.
The suspect released two of the four kidnapped children in Arusha region - but the whereabouts of the other two children is still unknown. Justine's parents; Elizabeth and Ombeni expressed gratitude to the collaborative efforts of the police in both regions.
The suspect, Samson Peter, confirmed to have abducted Justine and the four other children in Arusha region. He explained that he abandoned the other two, out of the four he kidnapped in Arusha, after their parents failed to pay the ransom demand.
The four children kidnapped in Arusha region were aged between three and six years. Maureen David, aged six years, was kidnapped while playing with other children outside her home, Iqram Salim, aged three, went missing from Burka area, while Ayoub Fred aged three years and half, Bakari Suleiman also three years and six months were abducted from the Field Force Unit of Kwa-Mrombo area in Arusha.
Mr David Njau, whose six-year-old child, Maureen, was recently abducted at play said the kid's friend had told him that a man had appeared and given the girl a candy before leaving with the girl. The children thought the stranger was a relative of Maureen's.
The following day, a handwritten note was sent to the parents demanding 4m/- with threats that if the parents tried tracing the culprits or contacting the police, they would receive Maureen's head in a parcel.
Another child, Iqram Salim, aged three years, went missing from Burka area and his grandfather, Mr Kassim received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding two million shillings.
"I negotiated with them and settled for 300,000/- which I sent through M-Pesa (mobile money transfer) ... but after they got the money, the racketeers sent me a message saying they needed more cash and won't release the child," said Mzee Kassim, in tears.
Two more children went missing -- Ayoub Fred aged three years and 8 months and Bakari Suleiman aged three years and half. Both were abducted from the FFU at Kwa-Mrombo area.
Ayoub's mother, Agnes Hussein said she had reported the matter to the police, complete with the suspects' phone numbers, but nothing had since been done to rescue the children.
"These are little boys and we are not sure if they are being fed well, washed or even sleeping properly... we fear for their health," said a weeping Agnes. Apparently, the kidnappers' phone numbers are still active.