Police unravel how Kamiti escapees made it to Kitui

Makuka Sub location assistant chief Nyamai Kalenga, who was the first government officer to interrogate one of the 3 escapees arrested at Kamuluyuni village in Mwingi East, Kitui County. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

Details have now emerged that the three terrorists who made a daring escape from Kamiti Maximum Prison before being re-arrested in Kitui county had a well-organised escape plan which saw them methodically avoid some of the heavily manned roads by police in lower Eastern.

By their own admission, while being interrogated at Kamuluyuni market in Mwingi East after they were arrested, the terrorists revealed that they used the Machakos – Kitui route before finding their way to Endau trading centre in Kitui East.

It has been established that from here, they intended to slip through to Tana River County through the Kitui border or connect to the Mwingi – Garissa road through Ukasi market and possibly find their way to Garissa County. It would appear that their choice of Machakos – Kitui road was a well-executed plan since the three feared using the Thika – Mwingi – Garissa road that has several police roadblocks, some that are manned by multi-agency security teams.

One of the convicted terrorists, Musharaf Abdalla Akhulunga alias Shukri was the first to spill the beans on their escape route, moments after being cornered while hiding in a desolate forest deep in Mwingi East.

According to Makuka sub-location assistant chief Nyamai Kalenga (pictured) who was one of the few government officers to interrogate the terrorists at Kamuluyuni, Musharaf revealed that they were delivered by a private car in Machakos town late in the evening last Monday.

Here, they bought a new set of clothes before embarking on their journey to Kitui town using a matatu.

Musharaf who was the most cooperative of the three disclosed that from Kitui town, they again used public means to Endau market, about 100km away. On arrival at Endau market, they hopped onto a bodaboda and drove towards Makuka sub-location.

“He told us they had two mobile phones and were in communication with some people who were giving them directions,” the assistant chief told The Standard.

The chief, however, pressed Musharaf to reveal whose car they had used to arrive in Machakos town. At this stage, the fugitive requested that a crowd that was milling around him be dispersed so that he can reveal this information to the chief.

Sensing that possibly he was being trapped by the terrorist, the chief insisted that he should reveal the information in the presence of everybody. Musharaf who had now been joined by the other two; Joseph Juma Odhiambo and Mohamed Ali Abikar opted to remain mum.

However, by the time the three were arrested, they did not have any mobile phones. Abikar, who had offered to bribe the team of police reservists to secure their release claimed that his phone had gotten lost in the bushes as he tried to escape the laid ambush.

He had asked the reservists to help them in retrieving the phone so that he can fix their bribe in exchange for freedom.

Police in Kitui yesterday confirmed that two mobile phones believed to belong to the terrorists had been recovered within the area where the three were hiding. Leah Kithei, the county police commander however said the handsets had been smashed, possibly by the cornered terrorists to hide information about their contacts.

A note bearing three mobile numbers had earlier on Thursday been recovered by the police reservists believed to also belong to the three.

But even as the government basks in the comfort that the three most wanted terrorists are back in custody, Kitui residents are convinced that had it not been for the efforts of the National Police Reservists manning the harsh, porous border corridor, the fugitives would have easily slipped off to Tana River County.

The point at which they were arrested is barely 15km away from where a section of Somali herders have erected their manyattas after forcing away the local community from areas near the common border.

The reservists who act as standby combatants to diffuse any threats from armed bandits say their efforts have been less appreciated, especially by the government.

Drenched in sweat due to searing heat, the police reservists trek several kilometres through the forested border to sniff out any possible incursions from the enemy. They have become the unsung heroes of the community who offer much-needed security to the ever tensed locals.

Here, hundreds of lives and property have been lost in recent years as the herders clash with the locals over pasture and watering points.

“Ours is full-time police work, or even more. We have to be on standby every time. What we ask for is for the government to properly remunerate us because we have families to look after,” says Joshua Mutambuki, one of the reservists.

The reservists say that due to the volatile nature of the region, sometimes they are forced to spend days and nights combing the forests to evict the illegal herders and criminals hiding among them, making it difficult to engage in any other income-generating activity.

“When you finally get home, your wife and children are looking up to you to provide for them but you have nothing except the gun,” Gideon Wambua, another reservist adds.