Kenya

'24 Brothers' gang unleashes fresh wave of terror in Migori

'24 Brothers' gang unleashes fresh wave of terror in Migori

A new wave of insecurity has hit Migori and neighbouring towns, with residents fearing the return of a machete-wielding gang after two watchmen were killed in separate night attacks.

On Thursday, residents of Migori town woke to the shocking killing of a security guard at International Gospel Ministries, where musical instruments were also stolen.

Oruba sub-location Assistant Chief Charles Ouma said the guard, identified as Saitoti Masai, was accosted by unknown assailants and hacked to death before the attackers made away with the equipment.

“We are yet to get the CCTV footage to enable us to identify the suspects. Our preliminary investigations have, however, established that the guard was on routine patrol when the armed robbers attacked,” he said.

The man’s body was taken to Life Care Hospital in Migori town as investigations continue.

The attack follows an incident at dawn on Wednesday in Uriri where a guard at a restaurant was hacked to death and his colleague brutally attacked with both hands tied to his back. The attack happened a few metres from the Uriri sub-county police headquarters.

The incident sparked outrage among residents, who accused law enforcement agencies of leaving them “at the mercy of unknown assailants who roam freely during the night”.

The murdered guard was identified as Mr Jorum Gavaga while his colleague, Mr Owino Ondego, is nursing panga cuts at Migori County Referral Hospital.

Mr Nathaniel Odipo, a cashier at the restaurant, said he reported to work only to find both doors open while the two guards were lying in a pool of blood.

“I was shocked to find both doors open. The padlocks were broken and several electronics were missing,” he said.

Mr Odipo estimated the value of the stolen goods and cash at Sh450,000.

The local business community, led by Mr Daniel Gujra, says criminals have become notorious at the market and nearby villages, attacking and injuring people even in broad daylight.

“Last night’s attack came only three days after another attack on an M-Pesa operator, who lost over Sh900,000 and was left nursing serious injuries at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital. We fear for our lives and cannot operate businesses past 8pm yet we have law enforcers around,” lamented Mr Gujra.

Uriri Business Community Group secretary Mr Elisha Okola blamed police for the rising insecurity, citing the lack of patrols.

“The officers are busy raiding chang’aa dens and arresting those flouting Covid-19 rules yet they do not take the time to respond to sensitive issues. It is common to find them drunk and they cannot mount night patrols,” Mr Okola claimed.

Area MP Mark Nyamita now wants Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to deploy more officers to bolster security in the area.

The incident came a fortnight after residents of Kokuro in Awendo sub-county used boulders to barricade the Kisii-Migori highway to protest insecurity after a businessman was murdered in cold blood by gunmen.

Residents said the businessman, Mr Jeremiah Anyona, had just closed his shop on Tuesday night when the attackers forced their way into his premises through the back door.

Neighbours who spoke to Nation.Africa said the five assailants donned police-like clothes and two had guns.

“They ordered everyone to lie on their belly before stabbing him eight times in the neck, stomach and chest. His family members were held at gunpoint,” Mr Jessica Aoko said.

She added: “He pleaded with them to take all the valuables and spare him but they insisted that they were on a mission to do away with him.”

Nothing was stolen from the shop.

In September, a security guard at a supermarket at the Namba Junction on the Migori Sirare highway was hacked and left for dead when he attempted to thwart a robbery at a nearby motorcycle shop.

Three gangsters broke into the shop, hacked him with a machete and broke his right hand before carting away three bikes and assorted spare parts worth over Sh560,000.

“They attacked me with machetes and other crude weapons while pinning me to the ground and calmly decided between them whether to kill or leave me. I must have passed out as I only woke up at a medical facility where I was rushed,” he told Nation.Africa at Ragan dispensary, where he was recuperating after suffering severe cuts in his head, back and limbs.

Mr Henry Otieno, the manager of the motorbike shop, said CCTV footage showed the robbery occurred after midnight a few metres from the Kowino police post.

“They were daring and carried out the robbery in confidence, just a few metres from a police post. It seems there were no police patrols when the attack happened,” Mr Otieno said.

“We are worried that cases of insecurity have been on the rise in Migori town. The robbery at our business premises came only days after the body of a man was found under a bridge at River Migori and this has compounded our fears.”

The burglary occurred the same night as another at Maranatha Faith Assemblies, raising fears of a crime syndicate operating when the night curfew was in force.

Mr George Othina, an official at the Maranatha church in Migori town, said thugs broke into the building and nearby Abison Recording Studio and took away several electronics and furniture.

“Police should enhance patrols in this area. It is now wanton theft by armed robbers that calls for speedy intervention,” he said.

Mr John Chacha, the proprietor of Mnati Bar in Kehancha town, said the lack of security lights in the area and impassable back roads have increased muggings and break-ins.

County police Commander Mark Wanjala, however, absolved the police of blame, noting that there were heightened police patrols in the county.

“We have enhanced patrols …. To be more effective, we call on security guards and residents to alert police for rapid response,” Mr Wanjala said by phone.

He said some cases of business break-ins are linked to rivalry.

The fresh attacks come a few months after residents raised the alarm over a blood-thirsty gang, 24 Brothers, which waylays and attacks residents in a similar manner.

Residents of Suna East and Awendo sub-counties, who have borne the brunt of the attacks, say the gang includes youths who launch attacks at night, breaking into shops and killing their victims before taking off with property.

With the lifting of the night curfew, residents are apprehensive that the attacks will become more frequent.

They accuse law enforcement officers of complacency, saying they have failed to act though some of the suspects are known.

“Most of the gang members are young men who are well known. We have even raised concerns with the local administration, but they seem reluctant to crack down on these criminals,” Charles Okuna, a trader at Kakrao shopping Centre, said in a past interview.

“We are not certain of our safety if drastic measures are not taken to flush out the gang and bring this madness to a stop.”

Some residents blame rising insecurity on the lack of street lights on roadways. They claim Kenya Power disconnected the lights because of unpaid bills.