At least 27 suspects have been arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the notorious Confirm gang and other criminal groups in Nakuru city.
Security agents said the suspects were arrested in connection with a spate of armed robberies reported in the Rift Valley capital in the last few days.
Police said five of the suspects, all teenagers, were arrested in Kwa Rhonda estate shortly after they staged an attack in Jasho, Nakuru West sub-county.
"During the operation, crude weapons including machetes, clubs, swords, metal rods and pieces of wood were [seized] from the thugs, who have left Nakuru residents living in fear of being attacked,” said Nakuru County Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Anthony Sunguti.
“Also recovered were assorted SIM cards and identification documents belonging to victims of robbery incidents."
The other 22 suspects, all aged between 20 and 30, were arrested in a separate operation in Mawanga.
The arrests came as a special police squad deployed from Nairobi embarked on a major security operation in Nakuru on Saturday aimed at weeding out members of the notorious Confirm criminal gang.
In the ongoing crackdown, police also confiscated two firearms in a house in Flamingo estate.
But members of the gang escaped the police dragnet.
The dreaded gang and its splinter groups have been linked to a series of killings of women in Mawanga, on the outskirts of Nakuru.
Although police are still investigating the bizarre murders, intelligence reports indicate that members of the group could be behind the killings.
The women were killed within the past two weeks.
"We have kicked off a major operation to weed out Confirm and any other organised gangs in Nakuru. A special squad called Anti-Confirm is already combing various parts of Nakuru city to arrest the criminals,” Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mr Maalim Mohamed.
“We will not tolerate the resurgence of any criminal gang [and] those involved will face the full force of law. We will deal with criminal elements ruthlessly. I urge residents to be candid and report the criminals, to help police arrest them.”
A senior detective told the Nation that the squad will track down the criminal gangs and destroy their cells.
"The special unit has already arrived in Nakuru; they came on Friday. They have been assigned to carry out operations in places where the gangs are believed to operate,” the detective said.
“The unit is made up of members of special units, general duty police officers and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.”
The operation comes a day after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i warned that the government would conduct a ruthless operation to arrest the gang members.
"Your days are numbered. Security agencies have begun an operation to root out the criminal gang Confirm harassing residents in Nakuru,” said the CS after attending a church service at Ekerubo SDA Church in Manga, Nyamira County.
“Elections come and go, and as a government we will not allow criminals under the pretext of campaigns to harass citizens in any form or manner."
Dr Matiang'i announced a sting operation to apprehend members of the gang that have been wreaking havoc in Nakuru.
Dr Matiang’i assured Kenyans that security agents are on high alert ahead of the August 9 elections.
As the operation continued in various parts of Nakuru, a mob on Sunday lynched a member of the gang at the Gate Iguru matatu stage in the city.
Police said the gang member had attempted to snatch a phone from a traveller before the mob pounced on him.
Another member, who survived the mob attack, was nursing serious head injuries at Nakuru Level Five Hospital.
Police found three knives at the scene.
The Nation has learned that security officers have intensified day and night patrols in various parts of Nakuru believed to be hideouts of the criminal gang with an aim of smoking them out.
Police in Nakuru have been grappling with gangs including Confirm, Gaza, Dragon and Eastlando and Msafi Kwanza, which have been terrorising residents in several estates, especially in informal settlements.
But the most dangerous is the dreaded Confirm.
Mr Mohamed issued a stern warning against the re-emergence of criminal outfits in the region, saying no member of outlawed groups will be tolerated.
He called on young people to shun involvement in criminal activities, adding that the government will not tolerate crime.
The crackdown has intensified after the mysterious killings of three women in Mawanga, Bahati.
Residents say Confirm has mutated into a dangerous outfit that enjoys the protection of some local politicians.
The criminal gang, which consists of idle, unemployed youth from the slums, is usually armed with crude weapons including pangas, metal rods, swords and sometimes guns, according to police sources.
The gang, with tentacles in slums including Kivumbini, Lake View, Kwa Rhoda, Kaptembwa, Flamingo, Kaloleni and Bondeni, has been operating with impunity, terrorising residents of Nakuru city and its environs.
The gang, which was in December 2016 listed by the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery as one of more than 90 outlawed gangs operating in Kenya, swindles residents by obtaining money fraudulently through mobile money transfer services.
Its members are also responsible for robberies and muggings, especially in informal settlements.
On the streets of Nakuru, the criminals sometimes snatch handbags and phones from visitors in broad daylight.
They also often waylay their victims and rob them of their valuables before disappearing into their hideouts.
Members of Confirm are normally aged between 13 and 26 and residents describe them as ‘young and dangerous’.
They have no second thought about hacking or shooting a person they think stands in their way of getting what they want.
They are vicious young people sometimes acting under the influence of strong hallucinatory drugs.
Despite their age, the gang members are lethal in their criminal activities.
When darkness sets in, some of the informal settlements are no-go zones. But gang members also operate during the day and have devised ways of escaping police dragnets.