According to Arusha regional police commander Charles Mkumbo, the officers gunned down the victims and injured five other people on Tuesday after allegedly finding them grazing cattle in a prohibited area of the Mount Meru forest in Oldonyosambu.
The regional police boss said his office has commissioned an inquiry to establish the precise motive behind the brutal shootings which have jolted the predominantly pastoralist-minded Arusha community to the core.
According to The Guardian’s findings, the SUMA-JKT officers took two of the herders into custody before allegedly shooting them in cold blood on their way to the Oldonyosambu police station.
At least two eyewitnesses narrated that after executing the first two, the army officers returned to the vicinity of the arrests, shooting into the air indiscriminately, and killing two other people in the process.
The hail of stray bullets also injured at least seven more people, including a Standard Three primary school pupil, as they scampered for safety.
A visibly irate Oldonyosambu ward councillor, Raymond Lairumbe, expressed shock and dismay over the conduct of the army officers.
“We are truly saddened by this murderous act... none of the victims will be buried unless the regional authorities come to explain to us why our brothers and sisters had to be killed in such a manner,” said Lairumbe.
The injured Standard Three pupil from Lemonyoli primary school, Isaya Thomas, has been admitted to Mt Meru Regional Hospital with a bullet lodged in his spine.
The boy recalled: “I was walking towards the local shopping centre when one of the flying bullets hit me in my abdomen and went through my back.”
Also narrated his ordeal from the hospital bed where he has been admitted, victim Julius Lazaro wondered why he had been shot at when he was only minding his own business at home in the Madukani area of Oldonyosambu.
“I was at home when I heard the gunshots and saw a number of uniformed soldiers who ordered us to run...then they shot me in the leg,” said Lazaro.
According to Lazaro, while some of the officers were in military attire, others were wearing civilian clothes.
Yet another hospitalised victim, William Ngirangwa, was returning home from his quarry job when he ran into the hail of bullets emanating from the army officers, one of which got him in the leg.
Authorities at Mount Meru Hospital have confirmed receiving four bodies from the incident which have since been preserved in the hospital morgue.