Houses razed down as police engage armed suspects

Locals mill around cows that were shot dead as GSU officers engaged armed suspects. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

At least ten houses were razed to the ground and several cows and goats shot dead yesterday as General Service Unit (GSU) officers pursued armed men suspected to have launched an attack on security personnel.

The GSU officers stormed Kapsiren village in Marakwet East during a morning raid in search of a gang of five men who police claim had shot at security personnel enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the troubled Kerio Valley.

According to witnesses, the officers fired shots indiscriminately for hours as they hunted down the suspects. A resident only identified as Kipchirchir said the shooting continued until 1pm before the GSU officers retreated and later resumed the search at 2.30pm.

But villagers said the outcome of the police raid turned devastating after 20 cows and 16 goats were killed, and more than ten houses were burnt to ashes.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Police Commander, Francis Nguli, told the Standard on Sunday that the animals were caught in a crossfire after the suspects they were pursuing hid among the livestock while shooting at GSU officers.

Locals said trouble started at 7pm on Friday after a man engaged in a brawl with a GSU officer at Soko Bora market in Endo Ward. The locals accused police of causing destruction to an entire village instead of pursuing the suspect, who they said was well known by residents and the police officers.

“It is unfortunate that we have lost 20 cows, 16 goats and many houses are still burning. The culprits are known and the GSU officers should have just pursued them,” Kipchirchir said.

Lawrence Mutwol, a local politician, condemned the attack, adding that villagers fled the area and are being housed by friends and relatives in the neighboring Sibow village.

However, Mr Nguli defended the officers, saying they resorted to the use of force after a criminal gang opened fire on officers who were enforcing a curfew.

“We have been told a number of houses were burning. I have learnt that our officers did not burn the houses. We suspect angry locals who were unhappy with the attack directed at our officers burnt the suspects’ houses,” he said.

He said some military gear, National Youth Service t-shirts, a National Police Service belt, bows and arrows were recovered from a house belonging to one of the suspects.