Two suspected cattle rustlers were arrested after they were found with camels that were stolen in last April’s bandit attack at Murulem and Harr Moroti in Burat, Isiolo North, during which nine people were killed and four others injured.
The pair is believed to have been either directly or indirectly involved in the crime where armed criminals from the neighbouring Samburu County gunned down residents in their homes and in grazing fields before walking away with dozens of animals.
The two were found with the stolen animals at their homes during a Sunday evening security operation in Setu within Kipsing, Oldonyiro ward, where a total of 78 camels stolen in past attacks were recovered.
County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding told Nation that the pair was being interrogated and upon completion of investigations, will be charged with handling stolen property, murder and robbery with violence.
“We believe the suspects had a hand in the last April’s killings or are accomplices and must face the full force of the law for causing suffering to many families,” Mr Omoding said, terming the arrest a major breakthrough in the government’s quest to contain banditry and cattle rustling in the region.
A police reservist who was among the officers escorting the recovered animals to LMD yard in Burat ward survived an ambush by suspected bandits within Ngarendare area.
Of the 74 camels, four were returned to their owners, with the rest held at the LMD yard as identification by those who lost their camels continues.
Only 12 camels had been identified by Tuesday evening, said Mr Omoding, and asked affected residents to visit the area with police OB reports to prove ownership.
Thursday's meeting between Turkana and Somali residents and the security team at the yard ended prematurely following differences on whether the recovered camels that will be unclaimed should be handed over to the Samburu community or not.
The residents, some who were denied a chance to identify their stolen animals at the yard, demanded that camels that will not be positively identified by local herders be held by the security team to coerce the Samburu county residents to return hundreds of their stolen animals.
“We feel that the government is treating us as second-class citizens. Why would a government officer suggest that unclaimed animals be returned to the same people who have been stealing from us?” Mr Hussein Mohammud asked, lamenting over delayed release of the camels to the owners.
Sources revealed that the recovered animals will remain in state custody (as exhibits) and will only be released to the owners through a court order after the suspected criminals are arraigned.
Residents within the volatile Mlango area continue to question the government’s capability to end the senseless killings by cattle rustlers, with reports indicating that more than 20 people had been killed in attacks reported in the area in the past six months.
Three people, including a police reservist, were killed and more than 600 camels stolen (majority of them have already been recovered) in a recent attack in the area.
The local residents want President William Ruto to extend the ongoing military-led operation in neighbouring Samburu and Laikipia counties to the area to help flush out criminals who continue to unleash terror on innocent people.
Mr Lomei Lomuno asked the security team to intensify the search for the stolen animals that he claimed had been hidden somewhere near the Isiolo/Samburu border.
“Many of these attacks happen on the Isiolo side. The government should protect us and our properties because banditry is quickly threatening pastoralism which is our main source of livelihood,” he said.
Youth leader Mohammud Ahmed said drought and the incessant attacks had impoverished local communities, making pastoralists unable to provide for their families.
“The criminals involved in the bandit attacks should not just be arrested but taken to court to serve as a lesson to others at large,” he noted.
Mr Omoding reiterated the government’s commitment to ending insecurity in Mlango and other hotspots in the county and fostering peaceful coexistence among communities for realisation of development.
Asking residents to volunteer information to authorities on the criminals’ hideouts, the senior administrator said they were investigating some persons over their involvement in the attacks and they will be arrested and charged after enough evidence is gathered against them.
“Politicians should shun defending criminals on the pretext of defending their communities and let the security agencies do their work. Criminals will be treated individually and no community will be targeted because of a crime committed by one or two persons or even a group,” he noted.