How prison staff helped terror convicts flee from Kamiti prison

The three terror convicts who escaped from Kamiti Maximum Prison after being arrested in Mwingi, Kitui county on November 18, 2021. [Courtesy, Standard]

Investigations into the escape of three terror convicts from the Kamiti Maximum Prison have revealed that some staff were involved in the plot to free them from jail.

The details are contained in statements recorded by detectives from the DCI Serious Crime Unit and those from the Anti-terror police, as well as statements from the convicts on how they were aided by prison staff to plan and execute their mission.

The three: Joseph Juma Odhiambo alias Yusuf, Musharaf Abdalla Akuhlunga alias Zarkawi, and Mohammed Ali Abikra have since been returned to prison.

According to investigations, an officer from the prison played a critical role in aiding the convicts escape jail in an intricate plot planned over seven months.

The said officer was the link between the convicts and the financiers of the escape, some who are as far as Somalia.

With this information, the DCI has now shifted the focus of investigations to at least three people who are outside the prison and played a critical role in facilitating the escape.

The investigators are hoping to get forensic details of the three masterminds, also said to have from time to time sent huge sums of money to the officer through mobile cash transfer.

Police said they are yet to confirm how much had been sent to the officer but estimate the figures could run to hundreds of thousands. DCI has applied to a mobile service provider to get a statement of the officer’s cash transactions.

Sources familiar with the probe yesterday told The Sunday Standard that the said officer was one of those deployed to check on prisoners who were undertaking routine maintenance of the prison block.

It is during this routine exercise that the inmates doing masonry work are reported to have started drilling the hole on the wall that the three convicts are said to have slipped through on the night of November 14 and 15.

On the night of escape, the said officer was on duty but had been deployed to a different section and was in fact not anywhere close to the prison block 6A where the three convicts were incarcerated.

The inmates told the police that during the period of planning, the officer, while on duty, would visit their cell without raising any eyebrows.

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

He would then hand over cash that had been sent to his mobile phone to the inmates and walk away.

Asked how they brought in blankets that they used to scale the double walls of the prison, the convicts said as early as March, they had started raising complaints about cold temperatures at the prison and through the prisons welfare had managed to secure blankets brought in by relatives and friends.

The same prison staff and his accomplices would also regularly update the convicts on the security arrangements at the prison including the working shifts of officers.

Sources privy to the investigation said in picking their date for escape, the convicts were sure the team deployed to provide security on that day included some officers who were ‘considered not to be hawk eyed’ and also took advantage of the broken CCTV cameras.

“They had been briefed that the cameras were not working and that some of the officers on duty on that day had passed by the canteen and had drinks,” said an officer.

After pushing through the hole in the wall, the convicts exited their cells and fled, since they knew that some of the wardens were asleep and the CCTV cameras were broken.

Once outside the main prison walls, the three walked towards the staff quarters and eventually left the jail by jumping over the walls leading to the staff quarters.

After exiting the prison area, the convicts jumped into a waiting car, which had been hired to transport them to a safe distance.

Kamiti Maximum Prison, September 17, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

They boarded the car, a Toyota Probox, at around 1am heading towards Machakos. They arrived in Machakos town at around 3.30am, and were dropped off near a bus park. A second car was supposed to pick them up in Machakos but did not show up.

Eventually, the three had to board a matatu which they use to travel to Kitui from where they were eventually arrested and returned to prison.

The convcits were captured on November 18 at a remote village in Endau, Kitui County. Police said the trio was fleeing towards Boni Forest which borders Somalia.

DCI chief George Kinoti said police were tipped by members of the public who spotted the suspects at Malalani market in Endau location, some 100 kilometres East of Kitui town, where they bought milk, water and biscuits.

Police said the three had resorted to walking at night and sleeping in the bush during the day in efforts to hide from the public.

Kitui County Police Commander Leah Kithei said the three sought directions on the Mwingi-Garissa highway.

The convicts’ escape led to the sacking of prisons boss Wycliff Ogallo and the arrest of six prison wardens from Kamiti. The wardens are currently in police cells as police continue with their investigations.