The Mombasa business tycoon shot dead by unknown gunmen on Friday night was facing charges of financing terrorism at the Coast.
Mr Mohamed Shahid Bhutt, a director of the Modern Coast Bus Company, was killed after picking up his son from the Moi International Airport. He was killed in an ambush at Msikiti Nuru area within Changamwe at about 7.30 p.m.
According to witnesses, the businessman was driving a four-wheek drive vehicle from Kona Chaani on the Airport Road. He was distracted by a man riding a motorcycle and swerved off the road to avoid hitting him.
This was about 400 metres from Changamwe police station. A blue saloon car pulled up on the driver’s side and the occupants opened fire.
After the killing, the gunmen shot continuously in the air as they escaped towards the Changamwe Magongo-Kwa Jomvu road near the police station and Msikiti Nuru.
The killing created panic in the densely populated Changamwe West mainland as businesses were quickly closed and residents locked themselves in their houses.
According to witnesses, Mr Butt’s son was unharmed in the attack.
“The son escaped with a scratch on one of his hands,” said a witness who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.
In the melee, another man and his son, who were on their way from fetching water, were shot in the legs. They were admitted to Bomu Hospital.
Mrs Farida Hadi, the mother and grandmother of the injured, told the Sunday Nation Saturday that they were on their way to her Port Reitz residence when the son and her grandchild were caught up in the gunfire.
“As I am speaking to you, my son and grandchild are nursing their wounds here (Bomu Hospital) while another two are in police custody at the Changamwe station,” she said and pleaded with the government to release them saying they were innocent.
According to her, the victims had gone to one of her sons Hamisi Estate residence to draw water and, while driving back to her Port Reitz house, encountered the gunfire, forcing them to make a U-turn to Hamisi only to be sprayed with bullets.
The incident started at around 7.30 p.m. when gunshots were heard from the Akamba Handicraft Industry area and then spread elsewhere as panic-stricken people took to their heels.
In the ensuing confusion, word spread round that Changamwe police station had been raided and the fire exchange was between the “unknown gunmen” and security agents. Later it emerged that it was Mr Bhutt who had been shot dead.
A Bomu resident, Mwakala Zangari, called the media at 8.18 p.m. to inquire whether Magongo estate had been besieged by terror gangs following sustained gunshots that were heard as far away as Hakika Estate.
“I can hear gunshots all over, but we don’t know what is going on. Is it a robbery or an exchange between police and armed gangs?” he asked.
Another resident, Bakari Juma, claimed the gunmen were using a “bluish vehicle” as they shot into the air during their escape.
“When the road was clear, they fired more than 20 bullets into a car which was coming from the airport heading to town. The man’s car veered off the road; he was dead but the other occupant was okay. I saw him shocked,” Juma said.
Speaking at the scene, Bhutt’s longtime partner Salim Sumra said his friend had left his Mwembe Tayari office and gone to pick up his son from the airport, but on his way back at Korna Chaani area, he met his death.
“Mr Bhutt had gone to pick up his son at the airport; suddenly he was sprayed with more than 20 bullets as per the bullet holes on the car. We are saddened and perturbed by what happened to him barely metres away from a police station,” said Mr Sumra who declined to speculate on the motive of the killing.
County police commander Robert Kitur confirmed that two people––a man and his son––were injured in the incident and were recovering in hospital. He defended police officers against accusations that they delayed in responding to the attack that happened 400 metres from Changamwe police station.
Mr Kitur said the police were treating the incident as a normal criminal act.
“He had never complained that his life was in danger or under threat. We did not know about this particular incident. We thought they wanted to attack the police station. We are pursuing the suspects who could be five to six,” he said while appealing to members of the public to volunteer information on the attackers.
Mr Bhutt, together with another businessman, was charged with the offence of terrorism and incitement to violence within Mombasa. The court had rejected an application asking police to return a gun seized from a businessman being investigated over terrorism.
He was arrested, and the weapon seized from him. He was interrogated for two days before being taken to court on Friday where he was freed on a Sh100,000 bail.
When they appeared before court, the prosecution said Mr Bhutt was under investigation for alleged terrorism crimes.