Seven police officers have been arrested for looting when fire broke out at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as the mystery surrounding four passengers awaiting deportation deepened on Friday.
The seven instructors, including an inspector of police from the General Service Unit, may be arraigned in court on Monday over the looting on Wednesday morning.
The men were supervising the course officers who had been brought in to offer reinforcement but items allegedly stolen from the building that was under fire were found in their possession.
They include cash and alcohol from some of the destroyed shops. The Inspector of Police, Mr David Kimaiyo, on Friday said he had not been properly briefed but warned that stern action would be taken against any officer found to have been involved.
This happened as police focused their investigations on four passengers who were awaiting deportation when the fire broke out but cannot be traced.
Of particular concern to the detectives was the whereabouts of an illegal immigrant who had been denied access into the country. The man, of Somali descent, was being held at the immigration’s Prohibited Immigrants Room at the airport when the fire broke out.
Mr Joseph Mathinji Muriithi, the senior immigration officer in charge of the night shift, told detectives that when he was alerted of the fire, he went and ordered the transfer of the passenger to the JKIA police station.
In his statement, he did not indicate the passenger’s name, only saying he was of Somali origin. Mr Muriithi also said that he never took the prisoner to the police station himself but asked a junior officer to do it.
However, when the detectives checked at the station, the man was not there and there were no police records indicating that he had been booked in custody.
Investigators yesterday collected some samples at the scene of the fire including burnt items. They are trying to establish the nature of a substance that was seen oozing from the ceiling board shortly before the fire broke out.
Mr Muriithi on Thursday told detectives that when he went to the area where the smoke was coming from, he saw a sticky white liquid oozing from the ceiling board of the immigration offices.
There was speculation that this substance could be related to the fire outbreak.
The staff of Kenya Airways are also to be interrogated after investigators established that there was another fire at their kitchen, which is a few metres from the immigration offices.
The footage retrieved from Kenya Airways headquarters showed three women in KQ uniform in the kitchen cooking food just before the fire broke out at the same kitchen.
President Kenyatta yesterday seemed to rule out a terrorist attack as the cause of the fire.
“We can now confirm that there was no element of a terror incident in this fire. There is no evidence of an explosion or an improvised explosive device. This was a simple fire gone bad,” he said on Friday.
The President also warned that anyone found culpable, including for gross negligence, would be dealt with.
Although he ruled out terrorism, the President seemed to leave the door open to the possibility that the fire was caused by arson or sabotage.
The Head of State also said that they were going to fast- track the rebuilding of the airport and speed up the timetable for the newly constructed Unit 4 building.
Two US military fire experts are assisting local investigators, and the US is also providing immigration equipment to help restore regular international service.