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Prison Break: How terrorists escaped from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison

By Kamore Maina | Nov 17th 2021 | 3 min read

It took prisons authorities more than eight hours to establish that three terror suspects had escaped from the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison on Monday night. And even after officers learnt of the prison break, they did not notify the local police station until later in the day.

The first officers to arrive at Kamiti, in Kiambu County, were crime scene personnel from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations’ (DCI) headquarters at around 11.30am.

They were later joined by officers from the DCI Serious Crimes Unit, who conducted an initial search for the missing convicts around the areas bordering Kamiti prison. A team from the Anti-Terror Police Unit also arrived.

Piecing together the details of the escape reads like a movie script.

Police investigations have revealed that the three fugitives - Joseph Juma Odhiambo alias Yusuf, Musharaf Abdalla Akhulunga alias Zarkawi, and Mohamed Ali Abikar - who had been arrested over terrorist activities, broke out of the maximum security prison by drilling a hole through the wall.

They are then reported to have used this to exit their cubicle in cell block A6.

Once outside the cell, the three are reported to have scaled a 10-foot perimeter wall using a rope before exiting the highly guarded facility - all without attracting the attention of armed wardens.

Questions now abound on how the three managed to beat three layers of security to escape.

Odhiambo was convicted in 2019 for attempting to join Al Shabaab, Akhulunga was arrested in 2012 over his role in a failed attack on Parliament, and Abikar was convicted in 2019 for abetting the 2015 Garissa University attack that killed 148 people.

The gate leading to the Block A6 cubicles is manned by two armed wardens, who keep watch on a 24-hour rotation.

Outside the cells are officers who patrol the prisons’ compound. They are supported by another team of officers from five watchtowers who can see all corners of the jail from their positions.

The prisons compound is very well lit with floodlights, maximising visibility at night.

There are also CCTV cameras mounted to check the inside and outside of prison cells and the surroundings.

How the three escapees were able to beat these security checks has raised questions of collusion with the wardens.

Already, seven wardens are in police custody, with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi saying the prison break was “abetted by laxity and incompetence”.

“We will not only go the direction investigations will point us, but we will act resolutely to ensure this kind of recklessness does not happen again because it exposes our people. Definitely, there is a certain level of
irresponsibility we have to deal with in this particular case,” he said in a press statement yesterday.

Matiang’i spoke after a two-hour inspection tour of the prison on Monday night that involved other high-ranking State officials, including Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, Correctional Services Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein, DCI Director George Kinoti and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai.

“In the extensive tour of Kamiti, including Block A6 where the trio had been held, did not appear to support the version of escape given by the prisons manager,” the statement read in part.

“We have gone to the place where the escape allegedly happened, and we have formed certain opinions. We don’t want to discuss that because we don’t want to interfere with the work that the DCI is doing.”

The DCI on Monday announced a countrywide search for the three men had been launched. A Sh20 million bounty was placed on each fugitive and will be given to members of the public who provide information that leads to an arrest.

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