12 April 2017

Kenya: Seven Bandits Killed, Officer Hurt in Fierce Baringo Gun Battle

Seven suspected bandits were shot dead on Tuesday evening as security personnel intensified their operation against cattle rustling in Baringo County.

During the shootout in Akwichatis, Tiaty Sub-County, a police officer was seriously injured as security personnel engaged the bandits in a fierce gun battle.

Police seized an AK-47 rifle from the bandits, who are said to have been planning a raid on villages in a neighbouring community.

Baringo County police Commandant Peter Ndung'u said more than 17 bullets were also found after the shootout.

"During the operation to flush out the bandits, the criminals engaged the security officers and in the process one officer was injured, but we managed to fell seven of them and recovered one gun," Mr Ndung'u told the Nation.

FIRST TIME

He said the operation targeting armed criminals will continue until they seize all illegal firearms in the area, adding that security officers will follow the bandits to their hideouts.

This is the first time the officers, who were deployed to the region two months ago, have killed bandits.

There has been some grumbling from some leaders from banditry-ravaged regions in the county that little has been achieved despite the heavy deployment of the officers, including Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers.

Many residents from areas targeted by the operation have been fleeing their homes fearing the wrath of the officers despite official assurances that the exercise was only targeting criminals.

There have been claims that officers involved in the campaign were harassing innocent civilians, destroying property and burning houses, a claim denied by the government.

LOSING BATTLE

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo has maintained that the government cannot compromise on hunting criminals who are resisting government forces by using illegal guns to unleash terror on civilians.

"The armed criminals are fighting a losing battle because the massive operation to mop up illegal firearms will continue until normalcy returns in the troubled areas in the region," said Mr Musiambo.

"I have given firm instructions to the commanders supervising the operation to ensure that they deal with the criminals who are using guns to resist government forces," he added.

He said the officers were operating under very harsh conditions compared with the armed bandits who are well conversant with the area's terrain.

"These armed criminals have devised a way of laying ambush on the officers on operation because they are conversant with the rugged terrain.

"They attack the officers and retreat into the bushes but we will deal with them until they surrender the guns," said the administrator.

OFFICERS ATTACKED

On Monday, two police officers were seriously injured when they engaged with armed bandits in Chemorong'ion, Baringo South Sub-County.

The officers were on a normal routine patrol in the volatile area when they were ambushed by armed bandits believed to be from the neighbouring Pokot community.

The officers, a General Service Unit (GSU) and Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), who sustained gunshot wounds on legs and chest respectively were airlifted to a Nairobi hospital for specialised treatment.

According to Mr Musiambo, the operation to flush out armed bandits and mop up illegal firearms in Baringo and Laikipia counties is not targeting a particular community but criminals wreaking havoc in the region.

"Unless the bandits surrender the illegal firearms, we will continue to engage them and we will deal with the situation as it comes," he added.

VESTED INTERESTS

He also warned some leaders from the region who are against the operation noting that they are criticizing the exercise for their own vested interests.

"A section of leaders who are not happy with the police operation in the region are not genuine because they want to discredit the operation so that killings continue. Are they happy seeing women and young children living in camps after being displaced by the incessant banditry attacks?" he posed.

He dismissed claims that the security forces were burning houses and shops and killing livestock during the operation.

"We normally engage with bandits who normally hide in houses so as to ambush the police but we have to fight with them thus the houses get razed in the process," said Mr Ndung'u.

He also said that the bandits hide in a herd of cattle so as to target the security forces and they are forced to fire back during the fight with the criminals.

More than 400 KDF soldiers were deployed to the county two months ago in a bid to flush out bandits wreaking havoc in the region.

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