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Mystery deaths of Kenya’s elite police unit Officers

The late Chief Inspector Zebedeo Maina

The late Chief Inspector Zebedeo MainaThe mysterious death of a senior police officer who once headed a dreaded police squad that cracked on Mungiki has revived fears of extra-judicial killings.The death on Saturday of Chief Inspector Zebedeo Maina, Kitui deputy CID boss, adds to a puzzling pattern that has now seen five former kwekwe officers killed.

Maina had headed the Kwekwe unit, formed in 2008’ during the purge on Mungiki. The unit was renamed Eagle Squad in an attempt to shake off its tainted image after an international uproar over extra-judicial killings.

Maina was shot in the back on Saturday evening as he led a team of officers to rescue a five-and-a-half year old girl in Kitui town. The girl had been kidnapped from Nairobi.

He was shot near a nightclub in Kitui town and later died in what authorities termed unclear circumstances. Witnesses told The Standard he was shot by men in a Peugeot station wagon car. It was claimed a woman pointed out Maina before he was shot.

Witnesses said the officer was shot in the back and the bullet tore through his stomach.

Read:[VIDEO] A Dreaded CID officer allegedly shot dead by colleagues in a mysterious circumstances in Kitui Town

The men would later identify themselves as police officers at a nursing home, about 500 metres from the scene of shooting.

The four men, armed with rifles, reportedly asked nurses at Neema Hospital to “treat the suspect they had shot”.

The nurses, however, insisted on identification and the men reportedly produced police badges. But as the injured officer was put on a drip, they took him away and he was pronounced dead on arrival at Kitui District Hospital.

Witnesses questioned why they had not taken him to the district hospital that was nearer the scene of shooting, just some 300 metres away.

Eastern police boss Marcus Ochola said Maina succumbed to bullet wounds as he was being rushed to hospital after the 6pm incident.

“He died while on the way to hospital while one of the suspects was injured. It is unfortunate he died,” said Ochola.

Maina joins a list of at least five other officers of the squad that had 12 men at the time it was disbanded, who have mysteriously died in the past four years.

Maina was named as part of the police squad that abducted and killed Mungiki leaders Kimani Ruo, and Nyakio Njenga, the wife of Mungiki leader Maina Njenga.

Those who have since died are Chief Inspector John Kariuki, Sergeant John Gitahi, Bernard Kiriinya and former head of Flying Squad Reche Nyagah.

Their deaths are unresolved.

The whereabouts of two other junior officers are unknown after they were sacked from the force over alleged misconduct. Another of the few surviving members of the dreaded team is hospitalised.

Richard Katola, who was also their commander, is incapacitated in hospital after he suffered a stroke. Family members claimed he had been poisoned.

Kiriinya served as Maina’s driver when he headed the Kwekwe squad. He was mysteriously shot and killed in October 2008 outside Sarit Centre after deserting duty.

Prior to that, he had complained that his life was in danger and had passed on damning information to the Kenya National Human Rights Commission on his stint at the hit squad.

In his confession, Kiriinya told KNCHR they had killed up to 60 people, most of them hardcore criminals and followers of Mungiki sect.

At close range

Kiriinya said most of their victims were shot at close range, strangled or bludgeoned to death by the Eagle Squad.

In his confession, Kiriinya said they abducted Ruo after he was freed by a court of criminal charges, took him to a secluded farm in Ruiru area, strangled him and cut his body into pieces.

Maina’s squad was also linked to a shooting incident inside a hospital in Makindu of a survivor who had started to narrate his story to nurses.

Gitahi, like Maina, was shot dead in April 2008 while in a team of police officers on an operation to flush out Mungiki members in Banana area, Kiambu District.

Police said he was accidentally shot by his colleagues. He was shot dead in an operation in Banana area, Kiambu after a botched operation to arrest Mungiki suspects in April 2008.

His wife too died a year later in an unexplained death.

Nyagah, who served as Coast CID boss at the time of death in 2011, was also in the dreaded team. He died while undergoing treatment in hospital in 2011.

A family spokesman said he suffered liver complications although he was a teetotaler and didn’t smoke.

Kariuki also died mysteriously in his sleep in 2011 in Buru Buru. The family claimed there were two aborted attempts to poison him.

Authorities say the cases are still being investigated. The families of the deceased said they were yet be compensated or get an explanation from the State.

NO COMPENSATION

“What will we explain to our children? I have never been paid by the government after the death of my husband and no one explains what happened,” said the widow of one of the victims who asked not to be named.

Surviving members of the squad who are currently serving in different stations across the country said they do not understand what is happening.

“We are also shocked because when you look at the trend you wonder what is going on,” said one of the officers.
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“We know those behind this are our colleagues. We do not know what may face us in the coming days,” added another.

The members of the dreaded squad wielded power as they reported directly to their police bosses in Nairobi.

– The Standard

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