Police silence on Vikindu operation raises more questions than answers

28Aug 2016
Abela Msikula
Guardian On Sunday
Police silence on Vikindu operation raises more questions than answers

THE reluctance by the police force to explain what transpired on Friday at Vikindu village in Mkuranga district, Coast region, following what was described as an intense exchange of fire between the police and armed bandits has created more questions than answers.

Simon Sirro

On Friday Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander Simon Sirro promised to give a full account of the episode to the media yesterday.

But after hours of waiting for the media briefing, Sirro declined to comment on the operation, including divulging the number of police officers and bandits killed in the incident and those who were injured.

Sirro only told a brief news conference that disclosing the number of casualties would interfere with the operation which, he said, was still ongoing. He said he would be in a position to “reveal everything” on Tuesday, four whole days after the incident.

“The operation is still ongoing and we have dispatched more than 80 police officers to the area. We hope to recover all the stolen weapons,” quipped Sirro.

Newspapers yesterday splashed banner headlines showing that more than six hours of gun fire exchange at Vikundi left the head of the anti-armed robbery unit, identified as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Thomas Njiku, dead and 14 armed bandits killed.

The media fraternity expected that Sirro would have used the press conference yesterday to shed light on the operation, including disclosing the exact number of killed police officers and bandits if there were any.

The police silence on the operation has naturally sparked a number of questions, answers to which only the police could provide. To begin with, according to eyewitness reports, the fire exchange commenced at around 2am on Friday and died down at about 8.30am. In view of the large number of police officers deployed and who had completely surrounded the house in which the bandits were, why did it take more than six hours to contain the bandits?

Unconfirmed reports had it that 14 bandits were killed in the operation, but, surprisingly, and unlike normal police practice in such operations, not a single body of the killed bandits was exhibited. This, of course, leads to the second question: exactly how many bandits were killed in the operation and where are their bodies? Were there any civilians killed? If so, how many?

Answers to these questions are called for. It will be recalled that the local street chairman who had accompanied the police contingent to the house, told the media in the morning that, except for ASP Njiku, no one else was killed in the operation. So, who came up with the story about the 14 killed bandits and for what?

During the recent launch of the Tanzania Police Force Transformation Programme in Dar es Salaam, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ernest Mangu appealed for close cooperation with the media. Why were the police not cooperative in briefing the media about the operation?

Neither the IGP nor Minister for Home Affairs Mwigulu Nchemba has been available for comment since the operation was launched on Friday.

Yesterday newspapers reported that the Vikindu area in Mkuranga district, Coast region, was turned into a more than six-hour battleground between the police and armed bandits, resulting in the killing of at least 14 of the thugs who had the hallmarks of terrorists, and one senior police officer.

The reports said the police victim was head of the anti-armed robbery unit in the Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone identified as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Njiku.

The Vikindu operation came hot on the heels of the killing of four police officers on Tuesday by motorcycle-riding gunmen as they disembarked from a police van for a routine change of guard at the CRDB bank’s Mbande branch in the area.

Meanwhile, Sirro used the press conference yesterday to warn people against participating in the planned Ukuta demonstrations organized by a coalition of opposition parties, Ukawa, on September 1.

He said that according to police intelligence, there were a few youth who had been directed to disrupt the nation’s peace after they had been paid about Sh40,000 each.

“A person should compare between the value of the offered payment and that of their broken leg, for instance. We therefore urge all peace-loving people who do not want to confront the police force to stay away from the demonstrations. But should anyone choose to ignore the warning, we welcome them for a showdown,” he stressed.

He said that despite the looming demonstrations, the nation’s peace would be maintained at every corner of Dar es Salaam region where the demos are planned to kick off.

“The police are well prepared for the event, given that numerous warnings have been issued against staging the demos,” Sirro said.

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