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Mystery over empty 'mass grave' in Mandera, Kenya

By DAVID OHITO and CYRUS OMBATI | December 9th 2015

The mystery surrounding the discovery of an alleged mass grave in Mandera deepened yesterday after no other body was found at the suspected sites. Yesterday, local police, politicians, medics and human right lawyers witnessed excavations at suspected graves in Arabia area, which is about 40km from Mandera town, but did not find anything.

The team that combed the area in Mieboi ward included Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow and officials from Independent Medico-Legal Unit (Imlu) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

Earlier, the court had granted police a court order to exhume for a post-mortem the body of a woman who was buried on Monday at Lathe village near Mandera Town.

The body of Ms Isnina Musa Sheikh had been found in a shallow grave in Arabia earlier on Monday by witnesses who had claimed at least 12 bodies were buried there. The victim was a trader in Mandera town and was reported to have gone missing last Thursday.

Last evening, the search team called off the excavation at Arabia and is expected to resume today. Police Spokesman Geroge Kinoti said 15 sites were excavated in the presence of local leaders led by Governor Ali Roba, senator Billow Kerrow and journalists but no bodies were found.The leaders were not satisfied and demanded the use of bulldozer to dig deeper.

Politicians have accused security forces of extra-judicial killings during crackdown on terror. Others have however claimed the bodies, if any, are victims of Al Shabaab terrorists.

Press briefing

Today, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Nkaissery is set to hold a press briefing on the issue.

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Yesterday, Mandera Resident Magistrate Charles Mutai granted police the application to excavate the alleged mass graves.

Police swore an affidavit saying they needed the orders to exhume bodies and carry out investigations to ascertain their identities and cause of death. They explained they had been alerted by the public about a body of a woman within Omar Jillo.

The body was later moved to Mandera County Referral Hospital mortuary awaiting post-mortem examination. A representative of KNCHR George Morara claimed the commission had received reports of cases of graves with bodies whose deaths were a mystery.

KTN reporter Mohamed Ali who accompanied the officials to the sites explained the body of Ms Isnina appeared to have a gunshot wound in the neck.

“Apart from the political leaders, there are many villagers here with local administration officials who are witnessing the exhumation process. They are eager to know the motive of the killing and those behind it,” said Ali. Both police and the military have denied there have been any killings.

Mandera Governor Ali Roba demanded a comprehensive investigation.

He urged security offers to help stop killings in Mandera, arguing it was painting a negative picture of an area already struggling with security problems.

He invited police to carry out searches to dispel fears of mass graves. “The impact of neglect and under-investment in security had exposed Mandera and NEP residents to dangers, including radicalisation of the youth,” he said.

Roba said Islamist groups like Islamic Courts Union, Al-Itihad, Ahlu Sunna Waljamma’a and lately Al Shabaab were using radio broadcasts from Somalia to radicalise youth.

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