Escaped Kamiti convicts: Run, they could; hide, they couldn’t

Terror convict Mohamed Ali Abikar disembarked from a police helicopter guarded by ATPU officers. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Close to 90 hours of high drama that began with the prison break of Musharraf Abdalla, Joseph Juma, and Mohammed Abdi culminated in their capture yesterday. The three were arrested in a forest, deep in Kitui County, as they tried to make their way to the border with Tana River County

One of the three convicted terrorists that escaped from Kamiti Maximum Prison begged to be killed rather than go back to jail.

They were arrested by security agents within Kamuluyuni village in Mwingi East at around 11am, a day after they were spotted at Endau on the other side of Kitui East. The three would later be transported by a helicopter back to the prison in Nairobi where it all began.

According to a police report recorded by Mwingi East subcounty security agents, residents reported having spotted the three suspicious individuals hiding in a forest and immediately alerted the security team within the area. Earlier residents at Endau reported spotting three individuals who looked exhausted and appeared physically dirty, with one of them who seemed to walk with difficulty. Reports indicated that they bought milk and water at local shops before disappearing, raising suspicion among the locals.

On getting the tip from the locals, a multi-agency security team was immediately mobilized to track down the three. By this time, no one imagined they could be the three high profile convicted terrorists who were on the run, because the area within which they were arrested, is known to harbour illegal aliens from Somalia who often try to use the route to find their way to Nairobi.

“The suspects were intercepted while on their way to Ukasi attempting to cross over to Tana River County,” says the police report recorded at Nguni police station.  

Upon arrest, the suspects were transported to Mwingi police station where a huge crowd had gathered to catch a glimpse of the said convicted terrorists. By this time, word had spread across the entire county that the three had been positively identified as the convicts that had escaped from Kamiti, throwing locals into a state of panic.

Paul Mwaniki, a resident of Endau who was among nine people, among them three armed Kenya Police reservists who arrested the three said that they followed the three for about two hours before they arrested one of the suspects as the two others broke into a run.

“We gave chase for several minutes and managed to arrest the other two. Two of them readily admitted that they were among those who escaped from Kamiti. The light skinned one asked us to kill him saying he had suffered enough in prison,” recounted Mwaniki.

Mwaniki said the third suspect appeared worn out and had difficulty talking. At around 2pm, the three blinded folded suspects were whisked to Mwingi police station where a huge contingent of top county security officers, in the company of Anti-Terror Police Unit were on standby to receive them.

However, the three were not allowed to disembark from the police truck. The media was strictly kept at bay from the parking lot at Mwingi police station where senior officers were seen consulting. Later a security officer confirmed to us that the three were photographed and their finger prints taken from inside the police truck.

In a brief statement to the media, Kitui County Commissioner Sangei Thomas said the three had been positively identified as the convicts who escaped from Kamiti prison, adding that they were being transported to Nairobi. The commissioner, however, declined to field questions from journalists even as he thanked the residents of both Kitui and Mwingi East for raising the alarm, leading to the capture of the three.

After addressing the press, three terrorists were whisked out of Mwingi town in a convoy of security vehicles with blaring horns. Flashing full lights, the convoy drove away from Mwingi town, with the vehicle holding the three sandwiched between other security vans with fully armed officers. Report indicated that they were transported to Rural Border Police Unit at Kanyonyoo from where they were picked by a chopper to Nairobi.

The three escaped from Kamiti prison’s block A6 on November 15 where they had been held. Police had placed a Sh20 million bounty on each of the fleeing convicts. The convicts are believed to have escaped somewhere between Sunday night and early hours of Monday morning. It wasn’t until 10.00 am on Monday that they were discovered missing, having climbed out of a hole in the wall of their cell block.

Back at Kamiti maximum prison, there was jubilation among dozens of wardens who came out to witness the chopper carrying the three convicts touch down from Mwingi. The mood yesterday was contrary to an earlier feeling of gloom and anxiety.

The helicopter carrying the three landed at the prison ground at around 4.30 pm. The three convicts, who were all blind folded, then emerged from the police copter under tight security.

Nairobi Police commander Agustine Nthumbi and county DCI boss Paul Wachira, had moments after 2.30 pm, boarded the police chopper to Mwingi to oversee the operation to return the suspects to Kamiti. Interior CS Fred Matiang’I also visited the prison for the second time yesterday since Monday when news of the prison break came to light. The CS accompanied by the newly appointed prison boss Brigadier (Rtd) John Warioba said both the staff and the prisoners who had escaped will be prosecuted.