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How doomed mission claimed 42 policemen

By By Standard Team
Updated Tue, November 13th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3

By STANDARD TEAM

The full horror of the bandit attack on police in Samburu is out; 42 out of 107 deployed to track down armed cattle rustlers were killed.

Several more are missing and the picture the survivors paint, cruelly written with the blood of the fallen heroes some freshly out of college and despatched to the treacherous duty, is blood-curdling massacre.

But what confounded the pain of the country over the incident that claimed the lives of the highest number of policemen with a single swish was the silence of the President and top politicians.

This was particularly given the speed and resoluteness with which he has previously declared national holidays in honour of fallen politicians. 

But what stood out, and for which many Kenyans should hang their heads in shame — moreso top Government officials — was the fact the bodies of the officers riddled with bullets and bearing caked blood, were left in open trucks for two days, and had started decomposing.

Even by yesterday, the bodies were yet to be flown to Nairobi amid claims a helicopter to transport them broke down.

The killings took place on Saturday and Sunday, and given the scorching Samburu sun, and the fact that most of the bodies had not been taken to the morgue as transport to Nairobi was expected from Sunday, the joints and muscles of their bodies stiffened quickly (known as rigor mortis).

And in that kind of heat, their flesh easily began to rot, raising questions as to why the Internal Security Ministry could not liaise with the its Defence counterpart to provide quick military transport for the bodies of security officers who died in service to their country.

The other factor that baffled many Kenyans was how such a mission was bungled by sending police officers drawn mainly from Nakuru, and very unfamiliar with the rugged and hilly topography of Suguta valley and surrounding areas, without air cover or even Intelligence cover.

As it turned out — from enquiries by The Standard — the officers, who seemingly had no idea of the ferocity and firepower at the hands of the hardened bandits, were sandwiched in an ambush and slaughtered.

They were shot at from all directions and in the confusion that followed they could not put on a common defensive front, making them easy targets for the attackers.

More deployed

When the guns went silent, 42 officers lay dead, 11 of them apparently killed on Saturday and the next batch in the second round of attacks the following day targeting those who were badly maimed.

The latter, who could have been rescued, were left to die a slow and excruciating death in the bushes of the merciless Suguta valley as their attackers, believed to be Turkana rustlers, escaped into the hills of Merti.

Officers from the paramilitary General Service Unit, regular police and Administration and Anti-Stock Theft Units dropped off from two lorries and entered the harsh valley at dawn on Saturday after spotting the rustlers driving away hundreds of cattle.

Unknown to them, the rustlers had divided themselves into groups with the experienced and heavily armed among them giving cover to those driving the stolen animals forward.

“We had seen the stolen livestock ahead of us in the belly of the valley, but when approached them, we were attacked from all directions from the top of the hills surrounding the valley,” said one officer, who repeatedly asked not to be named, as he is not the police spokesperson.

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