Bloodbath as police strike back at Mungiki

The Standard, Kenya/June 6, 2007
By Cyrus Ombati

The lives of 33 people were cruelly snuffed out in a single night, 27 of them killed by police battling Mungiki suspects in a swoop triggered by the murder of two security officers on patrol in the sprawling Mathare slums in Nairobi.

Four others, among them an elderly couple, were butchered in Murang'a District, their bodies left lying in pools of blood, their throats slit in what has become trademark murder style in the district.

A bizarre twist was added to it all when the firearm of an officer attached to the Flying Squad at Tigoni Police Station in Kikuyu earlier reported missing was found on the body of a suspect shot dead in the Mathare Monday night raids.

Police feared members of the sect could have abducted the officer who was off duty when he disappeared.

They handed his gun, a Ceska pistol, to forensic experts for examination.

"We found his gun but he has not been traced and his mobile phone is off since then. We do not know where he is," a senior officer told The Standard.

With these killings Monday night went down as the bloodiest yet since the crackdown on the banned sect began three months ago.

Police retaliation

Only referred to as suspected Mungiki members, the real identities of the bullet-riddled bodies of those killed in the Mathare bloodletting remained unclear.

The bodies were moved to the City Mortuary, awaiting identification by relatives. They appeared to have been transported under the cover of darkness in several trips by security vehicles before Mathare woke up to an uneasy calm, Tuesday morning.

Monday night's crackdown was a reaction to the killing of police constables John Matinde and Philip Lengai, who appeared to have either run into an ambush or were simply random victims of members of the sect. Sect adherents are believed to roam the sprawling Nairobi slums, collecting protection fees.

Late on Tuesday, Police Commissioner, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, held talks with the Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, in what was believed to be a meeting of minds in a battle that has thrown the Judiciary and the Executive on an embarrassing collision course.

A blame game ensued between the CJ and Security minister, Mr John Michuki, over exactly who was responsible for the failure to rein in the proscribed sect, with Michuki accusing the courts of letting off suspects who are better off in jail.

Bodies had multiple bullet wounds

The slain officers were robbed of their guns in the 8pm attack that provoked unprecedented police retaliation.

Lengai was only 22. He had served in the force for only five months.

Police spokesman, Mr Eric Kiraithe, said there was an exchange of fire between police and gunmen in the slum late in the night, resulting in at least 21 fatalities.

"There was a clash in the slum and police had to defend themselves. We suspect some (read suspects) even shot each other," he said.

Senior officers in the force took part in the crackdown.

Led by Criminal Investigations Department director, Mr Gatiba Karanja, General Service Unit commandant, Mr Mathew Iteere, and deputy Administration Police commandant, Mr Shuri Omar, the officers extended the dragnet to Murang'a, hunting suspects linked to the killer sect that has been growing bolder by the day.

Contingents of police officers from the Administration Police, GSU and regular police were deployed in Mathare slum in a mop-up swoop.

Using gun detectors, police combed the slums for the better part of the day.

The shooting came days after Michuki warned that police could soon start killing armed Mungiki suspects.

Attendants at the City Mortuary said the bodies were delivered in police vehicles and marked "unidentified male adults".

A majority of the bodies had multiple bullet wounds, with some victims having been shot in the head and in the back. A pathologist went about the grisly exercise of examining the corpses.


In Mathare there was no clear signs of exactly where the battle was pitched, with residents only talking about gunshots "here and there" and "all over the place".

Two more bodies were later in the day found lying on the rooftop of a house in the slum, with angry residents vowing not to allow police to collect them.

Others residents vaguely spoke of police terror of a large scale moments after the two officers were shot in what witness accounts said was rage of a lone gunman who had emerged from a dingy bar.

"Police were beating anyone they came across in this area. It was terror like I have never seen before. I was injured on the leg," said Joseph Njoroge, a resident, pointing at a deep cut.

Some claimed the suspects were mowed down in a room, where they were found hiding but police denied the claims.

Mathare remained tense with residents bracing for another round of police crackdown last night.

And police said they would concentrate their operations in the slum believed to be harbouring hundreds of sect followers.

Mlango Kubwa area of the slum, where the shooting took place, harbours several Mungiki followers. Police said it is the base of the extortion rings.

The two officers from Muthaiga Police Station were ambushed on Monday night as they patrolled on a footpath in the slum died instantly.

This brought to eight the number of officers killed in the Mungiki mayhem in the past two months.

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