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How rogue o­fficer killed policemen in 10-hour bloody orgy

RIFT VALLEY
By Silah Koskei and Irissheel Shanzu | July 15th 2016

When Police Constable Abdi Hakim Maslah, force number 101777, walked into Kapenguria Police Station at dawn Thursday, his colleagues at the reporting desk might not have thought he posed any danger.

After all, he was a familiar face in the station even though sources said he had gone off duty on Wednesday night at 10pm.

Nothing unusual in a colleague turning up at the workplace while off duty.

In any case the timing of his arrival would not have aroused suspicions because Maslah was used to attending the mandatory morning prayers for Muslims. That assumption proved tragic. Maslah had a criminal intent and it has now emerged it had everything to do with a detainee, Omar Okwaki Eumod, a primary school teacher who had been arrested on suspicion of having terror links.

Mr Okwaki had reportedly taught at Victoria Primary School in Kacheliba, West Pokot, for the past two months until he was picked up by police early on Wednesday at Nakwijit in North Pokot sub-county on suspicion of recruiting youths from the county to join Al Shabaab.

Reports suggest pupils stumbled on suspicious material and alerted the school administration, who called in authorities after it turned out the English and Kiswahili teacher could have been radicalising his pupils.

A source said Okwaki was in class when police officers from Kacheliba arrested him at around 9am. He added that moments later, other officers from Kapenguria arrived.

"I don't exactly know his background but he graduated from Kericho Teachers College and hails from Sioy area in West Pokot," said the source.

Okwaki was hired by the school committee as a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) teacher in May this year, The Standard was told.

Sources claimed prior to Okwaki's arrest, he was in constant communication with Maslah.

"He (Maslah) recently graduated from Kenya Police College in Kiganjo and he was under the radar of police over his behaviour," said another source, alluding perhaps to his links to Okwaki and reports that he had been unhappy with his work.

So when he walked into the police station at dawn Thursday, it was unclear why against this background his colleagues were not alarmed.

It is claimed that he walked to the cells, apparently to free his friend, but he did not succeed. Details of what transpired next are scanty.

Initial reports by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet indicated it was the teacher who grabbed a gun from a police officer at the desk.

"An individual who had been been arrested for suspected terror links grabbed a gun from a Report Office officer and shot several officers who were on duty. His attempt to escape was thwarted by the quick arrival of other officers on general duty," Mr Boinnet said.

But at the end of the 10-hour siege, in which seven police officers including the station commander and a Recce officer were killed, it emerged Okwaki had survived the carnage. Another Recce commando was reportedly injured.

Instead, among the dead was Mr Maslah, who authorities now say was the gunman who was felled by the elite Recce officers he had engaged for hours.

Officers reconstructing the events later explained that Maslah, frustrated that he couldn't free the terror suspect, turned and grabbed a gun from the duty officer.

At about 4:30am and alarmed by the gunfire, two officers rushed to the scene. The gunman reportedly tricked the two that he was on their side and pointed to the fallen colleague.

When the police officers walked towards the body, he shot them from behind.

By the end of the ordeal, seven police officers were dead, including station OCS Chief Inspector Vitalis Ochido, GSU Recce squad officer Dennis Momanyi and five police officers - Corporals Wilson Karani, Katana Kitu and Gideon Ochieng and Police Constables Robert Kinyua and Cornelius Rono, all of Kapenguria Police Station.

A contingent of Administration, Regular and General Service Unit (GSU) had cordoned off the facility as early as 5am after the first gunshots rent the air.

OCS Ochido too ran into the death trap. He was sprayed with bullets by the subordinate whose request for a transfer from the station he had turned down.

At about 6am, more reinforcements arrived at the station but the officers were kept at bay by the crackle of gunfire.

The General Service Unit officers arrived at the scene at about 7am and cordoned off the area. The gunman had taken a sniper position at a higher ground inside the station and was shooting randomly to hold them off.

And most of the police officers from the station were sitting ducks because they had reportedly returned their arms to the armoury. Only a few were on rotation.

At one point, the gunman tried to burn police vehicles.

At about 11am, a police helicopter carrying nine elite Recce officers landed at the Makutano Stadium. Thirty minutes later, the elite team gained entry into the station.

Two loud explosions were heard and a continuous shoot-out ensued between the officers and the gunman, who had collected magazines from the fallen officers.

The guns fell silent at about 1:33pm, and ambulances moved in to collect the casualties.

At 2:30pm, Rift Valley County Regional Co-ordinator Wanyama Musiambo publicly announced that the siege had ended, adding that a number of officers were killed.

Terror suspect Okwaki was found in the police cells.

Also cowering in the cells throughout the fierce gun battle were 14 students of Chewoyet High School who had been detained following a fire outbreak at the school.

One of them walked out dazed and mumbled incoherently when approached by our team.

Also in the cells were suspects arrested along the Kitale-Kapenguria highway after failing to produce identification documents, including suspected refugees from Turkana who were waiting to be screened.

According to a police source, the station had been holding individuals without identity cards and proper documents.

"The suspects were locked up in cells awaiting further interrogation before either being released or charged," said a source.

Musiambo said all the suspects in police cells, including the 14 students arrested following a fire incident at Chewoyet school, were all safe.

Another source added a teacher from another school had introduced Okwaki to the school committee.

Another teacher said that on the day of Okwaki's arrest, when they were informed, they followed them towards Suam River.

"We did not know what followed thereafter until Thursday (Thursday) morning when we heard that there was an attack at Kapenguria Police Station," he said.

It is understood that the officer who went on the rampage had been angry with his bosses after allegedly being reassigned duties and that he had contemplated resigning after his plea for a transfer was rejected.

Officers who visited the scene after the incident confirmed the dead assailant was one of their own.

"Everybody thought throughout the gunfight that the gunman was a militia as speculated but upon seeing his body, we could not believe that he was one of our own," said one of the officers.

In one of the rooms in the bullet-riddled station were spent cartridges.

West Pokot residents who had been following the operation celebrated with ululation upon getting information that the gunman had been felled.

Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati

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