Police in Wajir County have arrested eight suspects believed to have hijacked a passenger bus and killed 10 people along Kotulo and Wargadud road in Tarbaj sub-county, on December 6.
According to the police, the suspects could be members of an extortionist criminal gang drawn from the Somalia-based Marehan clan. The officers said that the group has been colluding with local residents to forcefully collect money from businesses and individuals and then they escape to Somalia.
“The criminals are led by some locals who want to benefit from the loot. These locals have been leading the group in identifying the targets of the extortion, which include businesses, buses, and livestock owners,” the police statement read in part.
The police revealed that the gang has been terrorizing residents in Wajir County, where they abduct and kidnap workers they meet in sight.
An example is the December 18 incident which the police said they targeted road construction workers. It stated: “The Marehan militia kidnapped locals that were undertaking road construction at Khorof harar-Konton road. They hijacked the Toyota Hilux KBL 463 L and a road grading tractor to move the abductees across the border.” They are said to have abandoned the tractor and used the Hilux instead.
The police identified the leader of the militia as Issack Okolla, who is said to have told the members of the Degodia clan that the abduction was a warning shot that they should pay taxes and ransom to the militia to avert any attacks.
However, the law enforcers exuded confidence that the fight against lawlessness in the region was on course. They attributed this to the collaboration between the officers and the civilian.
Police said: “The investigations into the cell are greatly aided by the locals who are cooperating with the police in giving crucial information leading to the identification and disruption of the group.”
“Police have also indicated that they are looking for the family members of the known criminals because they are harboring the suspects and aiding in their heinous crimes.”
Meanwhile, the Modika barracks in Garissa which was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 13, 2019, is expected to play a pivotal role in fighting insecurity in the region.
The barracks is expected to reduce the response time in dealing with criminal and terrorist groups as well as scaling down the cross border incursions and attacks in the area, thereby improving security in the greater North Eastern Region.
Also, the government has acquired high tech equipment that will be used in fighting terror and foiling other criminal attacks.
A source told The Standard that the equipment have been deployed on a pilot program during the festive season along the North Eastern Region, the Coast and urban areas especially Nairobi, Malindi, and Mombasa.
These involve the use of thermal imaging sensors and infrared imaging with the capability to conduct surveillance and imaging during the day and at night.
The technology targets over forested areas due to its thermal imaging capability and will be deployed within the North Eastern Region and the densely forested Lacta Belt which includes the Boni forest.