Locals blame police delay response over recent Lamu killings

Locals protest against insecurity attacks in Lamu in June 2014. FILE/PHOTO.

Lamu, KENYA: Details have emerged of how delayed police response resulted in the death of three people by suspected al-Shabaab militants in Bobo village of Hindi division in Lamu West.

Survivors and witnesses interviewed said police had been informed on the presence of suspicious persons who had been spotted by villagers but that the residents were told not to worry as nothing would happen, a mistake that resulted in the deaths of three with many opining that had police responded and acted, no one would have died.

The locals who have been demonstrating since Wednesday are now pointing an accusing finger at the police and want them to explain why they only turned up hours later to collect the dead bodies.

Residents said they had reported having seen a group of suspicious men in Silini village where the first murder took place at around 6.30pm.

The victim was a wood cutter who was going about his business in the nearby forest in the company of his friend before the militants struck and killed him while his friend survived having run for dear life.

Locals says that even after the survivor informed the police of the incident,nothing much was done only for the villagers to wake up to three more deaths in the neighboring Bobo village which just three kilometers from Silini.

“When the man came and told they had been attacked and his friend killed by heavily armed men,we knew it was them and we went and reported to the police.They just told us to go back home and that they would look into it.That was around 7pm on Tuesday.When we woke up,three more people had been killed in Bobo,which is very close and now we want to know why police didn’t do patrols even after we informed them of the first attack.These three wouldn’t have died if the police had done their work,”said Francis Maingey.

Residents of Hindi have been holding protests for the second day in a row since Wednesday to protest the ever increasing state of insecurity.

They have barricaded roads with burning tires making transport to and from Lamu impossible.

They want acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’I to come and explain why the security in the region keeps going from bad to worse with each passing day.

The residents also want the CS to transfer all police bosses in Lamu and bring in new ones on grounds that the current bosses seem to be sleeping on their job since people continue dying at the hands of Alshabaab.

“Let them bring us new police bosses who will take the issue of insecurity seriously.This ones seem to have relaxed and are busy protecting themselves as people die daily,” said Thuo Waruinge.

They also accused police for refusing to respond to distress calls made by residents when the militants attacked Bono village at around 1.30am on Wednesday.

“Many of us were in the bushes and we could hear our neighbours who had been attacked crying out for help.Of course the only way we could help was by calling the police.No one picked majority of the calls and the few who did told that they couldn’t come to our rescue as they had no backup and reignforcement,whats that supposed to mean,and indeed the first police officer came at 7am in the morning and all they did was pick up dead bodies and take them to the Mpeketoni mortuary,”said William Mwangi,a neighbor to Gerald Wagunyi who was killed.

Mwangi says there friends would still be alive only if the police had taken the reports by locals seriously.

“Even before the first victim was killed in Silini village on Tuesday evening,locals had reported to the police of a group of suspicious men who had been spotted roaming about the village.Couldnt they take that as a cue and investigate?Did it have to wait until four people are dead for them to come and tell us police and KDF have now been dispatched?They don’t take human lives seriously and if they do,it doesn’t show in their actions,”said Mwangi.

They said there is need for the security agencies to change their attitude and the manner in which they respond to intel in as far as terrorism and insecurity is concerned.

Locals said the lack of police patrols on the roads and in the villages had created a gap that can easily be penetrated by anyone willing to conduct attacks in the region.

“At the time the two villages were being attacked and people killed,there wasn’t a single patrol car in sight.Not a single police officer around.They were called and told of the attack in Bobo at 2am but they only came at 7am the following morning.How whould we take that,”said Susan Wairimu.

Witnesses said the attackers took their time while conducting the attacks and did not seem to be in a hurry of being found out.

“Its like they knew no one would come out for them.They were taking their time.When they spoke,they didn’t do it in hushed tones as would someone who is afraid of being heard,they just spoke in the normal tone.They would ransack a house and take what they wanted before killing the man,”said Anne,a sister inlaw to one of the slain men.

Commenting on the matter however,Lamu county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo denied the claims and said police have been actively patrolling all areas in the county.

“There is no single day the KDF and the police have not patrolled villages,roads and any other place for that matter.Even at the moment police are still in the villages,”said Kitiyo.

Kitiyo on Wednesday had a hard time trying to calm down protestors in Hindi town over te killings of the four.
He was booed and jeered by the agitated crowd who at the same time wanted him to explain why the police were letting the killings happen.

READ ALSO: Four butchered by suspected al shabaab militants in Hindi, Lamu