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Kenya using US satellites to hunt down bandits in five counties

 A police officer in an amoured personnel carrier (APC) in Mukutani after suspected bandits staged an attack. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Kenyan government has roped in the US to flush out bandits from five counties in North Rift.

Sources at Vigilance House said that the US is helping Kenya with satellite images of the bandits' locations, routes and hideouts as part of the intelligence information KDF and the police are using to flush out bandits from Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, and Elgeyo/Marakwet counties.

The intelligence information collected by the US and Kenya is also helping the government understand how bandits operate, their financiers, the source of weapons, and the people involved.

"We have put in place all measures we can in our capacity as the government. We will deal with those few proud individuals and make sure no Kenyan loses their life to them," President William Ruto told leaders at the Nakuru State Lodge on Monday.

Ruto deployed KDF to the bandit zones after armed bandits ambushed, disarmed and killed three police officers in Kainuk, Turkana County.

"While at the scene, armed bandits started firing at them indiscriminately from the bushes from the scene, and the officers managed to recover the bodies of three officers who were missing and had succumbed to their injuries," reads the OB titled OB 05/11/02/2023 at 10:15 am.

"They were stripped naked, and their arms and uniforms were stolen."

The latest attack came two days after six people including four police officers, lost their lives in a bandit attack on the Kitale-Lodwar highway in Kaakong, Turkana county, openly rebelling against the state's plans to wipe out banditry in Kenya.

"We must move forward together as a country. This is possible when we confront a few elements causing insecurity in the country," Ruto said.

How Kenya is capitalising on US technology and intelligence to arrest bandits

As a result, the KDF-Police security operation, which is now under one command, is capitalising on US technology such as the use of drones, satellite images, and other tools to collect real-time information on bandits' hideouts as well as photographs of for profiling, tracking, and arrest.

The information provided has helped security agencies seal supply routes, stop supplies to bandit hideouts, tap their phones, identify their leaders, and learn how the criminal gangs are operating despite going further deep into the hilly forests.

 Some of the amoured personnel carriers deployed to the North Rift. [File, Standard]

A senior police officer said that the operation in five counties that are already under curfew will ensure bandits are arrested for interrogation and prosecution to establish those involved and the markets for their meat, which are believed to be in Nairobi and its environs.

The arrests are meant to ensure human rights are observed, identify the source of weapons and how the criminals access them. The police said that the arrests will identify local leaders and business people involved, who might be arrested as well as blocked from vying in future polls.

"We're doing well so far and making more arrests. We are observing human rights and arresting as many as possible for interrogation to end banditry forever," a senior police officer commanding one of the units in the operation told The Standard.

The officer said that those who defy arrest will be dealt with ruthlessly to ensure law and order is sustained in the five counties.

"We have firsthand information and understand we are tracking people who bring weapons to the place and confiscating them. We are also ensuring that the criminals cannot leave the troubled area," the police officer said.

"We will be getting a prison for them away from the region where they can be jailed to serve as a lesson to the future generations that banditry is illegal and bad."

As a result, the state has also been able to intercept weapons and other items in the banditry zones as the criminals run deep into the forests.

"As a long-term measure, the arrests will ensure the suspects are prosecuted as required by the law. And on logistics, we might try the suspects in various courts away from the region," a top officer privy to the operation said.

 Armed herders at a watering point in bandit-prone Turkana County. [File, Standard]

Officers in the area told The Standard that bandits, the intelligence information from the US, and the information collected on the ground by other entities have given security agencies an upper hand since bandits, who have lived in and been trained in troubled counties, understand the terrain, have sophisticated weapons, and have been hardened to fight in those tough terrains.

"The bandits have handled some of the sophisticated weapons that even some police officers have never seen. This information is assisting us, and expect major arrests to begin Monday," an officer said.

This has led to massive arrests of bandits and the confiscation of many weapons in the counties. The suspects will be taken to court this week.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said that more than 100 civilians and 16 police officers have been murdered by the bandits in the five counties, in the last few days, which has forced the government to declare the region dangerous.

"The murderous gangs have in recent days escalated their terror on innocent Kenyans and law enforcement agencies and, in the process, burned down schools, police vehicles, and social amenities," Prof Kindiki said.

"We must do whatever it takes to bring peace to banditry-prone areas," Ruto said during the Nakuru meeting.

He said the must be peace in those areas so that the residents can take part in nation-building.

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