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New fears as killers use motorbikes to hit targets

By PATRICK BEJA and STANLEY MWAHANGA | Oct 28th 2014 | 3 min read

Security agents in Mombasa County are grappling with a fresh wave of insecurity involving armed gangsters that are now using motorcycles to commit murder.

The coastal towns of Mombasa and Malindi have lately witnessed a series of murders committed in broad daylight and in which armed killers riding on boda bodas hit their targets before fleeing.

In response, police in the county have mounted a crackdown on motorcycles and have in the last two days impounded more than 100, which they claim are being operated illegally.

Monday's clampdown covered Likoni while Sunday's operation was concentrated in Kisauni, especially within Mishomoroni.

The immediate cause of the latest crackdown was last Friday's attack in Mwembe Kuku in downtown Mombasa where two men on a motorcycle shot two village elders, Mohamed Shaibu and Mohamed Sharifuddin, killing the former.

The three killers, armed with an AK47 rifle sped on motorcycles in a manner similar to an attack in mid-March on a Likoni church where six worshippers were killed.

Police are yet to arrest any of the armed assassins, even as motorcycle operators suffer victimisation as a result of the operations.

Crime wave

The operators are now being accused of engaging in crimes witnessed in the last couple of days within Mombasa and other parts of the Coast that have seen at least six people shot by unknown assailants who have all fled using motorbikes.

County Police Commander Robert Kitur said they were yet to arrest any motorcyclists suspected to be involved in the attacks on the two village elders in Mombasa and that officers were still combing the area.

"We are pursuing those people," said Mr Kitur, even as village elders across the island threatened to resign from their positions over the shootings.

County Commissioner Nelson Marwa promised to comment later on the armed gang, which he put on notice on Mashujaa Day.

Mr Marwa warmed the killers during the celebrations, saying law enforcers would deal decisively with them.

"There is an armed gang going round the county shooting people and I am warning them to stop because we will soon catch up with them and when we do, they will face the full force of the law," he had warned.

Police have accused boda boda riders of abetting crime and helping criminals flee using their bikes.

In a similar incident early this month, a police officer was shot outside a casino by unknown assailants who fled the crime scene aboard a motorcycle.

But operators interviewed distanced themselves from the wave of crime, pleading their innocence even as the joint operation by county askaris and police continues to round up hundreds of motorcyclists suspected of being involved in crime.

Instead, the riders said, they have helping to avert crimes because their presence at night scares criminals away.

Fighting crime

"We have been at the forefront in the fight against crime. But now they are trying to treat us as the culprits. This is unacceptable," said Dominic Ngolo, chairman of a boda boda operators' association in Nyali.

The operators also accused police and council askaris of harassment and extortion, claiming officers had turned them into cash cows and sometimes shot those who defied their orders.

Monday, village elders met in Tononoka in Mombasa and expressed fears that the armed thugs were targeting them.

The estimated 25 elders met at a forum called by Haki Africa, a human rights organisation, following the murder of their colleague.

"As village elders, we feel threatened because the Government has been unable to use its intelligence to arrest these riders or even the drug barons who have set up wholesale and retail shops throughout the county," said Mohamed Said, an elder.

Haki Africa Executive Director Khalid Hussein said village elders in Mombasa, who were instrumental in the fight against crime and terrorism, were threatening to resign because they feared for their lives following the new crime wave.

"These elders are now under threat of being killed by these armed riders despite sacrificing to serve their country without pay. They have become an endangered lot because of their role in society," Mr Hussein said.

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