Was it a case of mistaken identity or an assassination followed by a cover-up attempt by police officers?
These were some of the questions on many lips when news of the death of renowned Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif broke yesterday morning.
Police said Arshad died after the vehicle he was travelling in with his brother Khurram Ahmed on the Kueni-Kamukuru Marrum road in the interior of Kajiado County was shot at.
The two brothers were travelling in a white Toyota Prado of registration number KDG 200M when they came across a roadblock erected by the General Service Unit (GSU) officers.
The police said the officers had erected the roadblock following an alert that another vehicle, a white Mercedes-Benz ML350, whose registration number was given as KDJ 700F had been stolen in Nairobi’s Ngara area.
They said the stolen vehicle belongs to one Douglas Wainaina. The man reported to the nearby Pangani Police Station that his car had been driven away from a parking lot and his son was inside it.
Detectives at the station immediately circulated the car’s registration details. It is not clear whether they indicated the car’s make and colour.
However, how the GSU officers at the roadblock failed to notice the Pakistani's car was not the one circulated as stolen left more questions than answers.
Even though police claim they opened fire after the driver drove past the roadblock, they had the option of either pursuing the car or alerting their colleagues ahead, given that the Prado bore a different registration number from that which had been reported stolen at Pangani Police Station – about 100km away from the scene of the shooting incident.
The Standard revisited the scene to establish circumstances surrounding Arshad’s murder, which police said took place a short distance from GSU Magadi Training School.
According to some of the locals interviewed, Arshad was a familiar face in the area. He regularly visited the Amodump & Kwenia shooting range.
The journalist arrived on Saturday and spent the night there. The following day at around 5pm, he left the range aboard the Toyota Prado belonging to Khurram.
Later at around 10pm, officers based at Magadi Police Station received the shooting incident report, which said the GSU officers had opened fire on a stolen vehicle whose driver allegedly declined to stop at the roadblock even after police flagged him down.
The distance between the shooting range and where the roadblock had been erected is about 30km. Efforts by The Standard to seek further information from Amodump & Kwenia Camp were futile after management declined to grant us an audience.
Little activity was going on at Kiserian Police Station where the car was towed to. The Prado bore several bullet holes.
It had two bullets from the back, five on the right-hand side of the trunk, one through the right rear window, and another on the right rear door right below the handle. The right front wheel was completely worn out.
There were blood stains on the passenger seat while hair particles and bone fragments splatted on the window.
In their earlier statement, police said Khurram was Arshad’s brother. Many questions were rising on what made him frequent the range and his relationship with the owner of the place.
According to preliminary police information, the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.
Wainaina’s car had been parked outside an electrical shop. Inside the car was his son.
When he returned from the shop, he found the vehicle and his son missing. Wainaina reported the matter at Pangani Police Station and using the mobile technology tracker the officers located the son at Olosuritia ACK Church in Kiserian town, Kajiado County.
After a short while, he was located at Kiserian Dam estate and later at Olepolos Hills.
Police said detectives alerted the officer in charge of GSU Magadi Training School who dispatched officers at a roadblock along the Kiserian-Magadi Road.
After Arshad’s killing, Khurram called Naqar Ahmed, a Pakistani national residing in Tinga market, and informed him about the incident.
Naqar advised them to pass by his place. By the time they arrived at the main gate, Arshad was already dead, with a bullet wound in the head, which had exited at the front side of his head.
In an earlier press conference, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Chair Anne Makori said they were doing all they could to ensure the public knows the true cause of Arshad’s death.
“There’s an alleged police killing of a Pakistani national at Tinga market, Kajiado County, last evening. Our rapid response team has already been dispatched to investigate the matter,” she said.