A criminal gang is slowly taking root in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate, causing tension and anxiety among residents.
The knife-wielding gang, known as Superpower, has been attacking businesses and individuals with impunity— mostly at dawn and dusk.
In the latest incident, more than 20 people were at the weekend held hostage before being robbed of their phones, jewellery and cash.
“We were heading to the mosque when we met 10 Somali youths. They rounded us up and ordered us to place our phones, cash and other valuables in a small bag,” said one of the victims, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Those who hesitated were attacked, he added.
Ironically, more than 50 members of the gang were arrested in a police swoop in July and charged in court but most of them walked to freedom after paying bail. A few who could not raise the Sh1 million bail were locked up and are awaiting trial.
Eastleigh North County Representative Osman Adow on Sunday said the gang was initially used by some politicians and businessmen to protect their interests.
“Superpower was formed by Somalis who were deported from Europe and America and came to the country to live with relatives,” he said. “With their cost of living catered for by money from their parents abroad, they do not work and most of their time is spent between watching movies, eating and going to the mosque.”
However the youths resorted to crime after taps of free money ran dry.
“By the end of 2011, the tycoons withdrew their support for fear of being accused of funding terror groups,” said Mr Adow.
Not pleased with the withdrawal of support, the gang has embarked on a revenge mission against some businesses owned by Somalis.
The group is composed of youths below 25 years who sport a particular hairstyle and use metal pipes, knives, pistols, grenades and machetes in their attacks.
Starehe police chief Samuel Anampiu said they had launched a man-hunt for the gangsters.
“We are trying to work with businessmen from the area in a bid to get information on these criminals’ hideouts,” said Mr Anampiu.
The Prevention of Organised Crimes Act 2010 outlaws such criminal gangs. The government has gazetted 33 banned groups after the passing of the law.
But while focus has mostly been on bigger outfits such as Mungiki and Taliban, numerous previously unknown groups, many purporting to be vigilantes, are steadily extending their criminal activities in various city neighbourhoods.