It was a gang on the prowl, preying on innocent transporters ferrying high-value goods on the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu highway.
The gang knows who to target, making it easier for the thugs to ensnare drivers and cart away goods valued at millions of shillings.
Less than a fortnight ago, they hijacked a Kitui-bound truck and stole fresh milk worth Sh3 million.
But quick action by officers from the Naivasha office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations led to the arrest of two of the attackers.
Sub-county investigation boss Adan Hassan, providing a chronology of events, said the gang, whose actual number was yet to be ascertained, had been on police radar.
“On the day of the robbery, one of the gang members hitched a lift from the lorry driver near the Gilgil weighbridge. The vehicle was carrying nine tonnes of milk from Salgaa,” he said.
The two, he added, drove toward Maai Mahiu but on reaching Longonot, another man armed with a jerrican waved them down, requesting drinking water.
“Again, the unsuspecting driver stopped but was immediately attacked, tied with his piece of clothing, bundled into a waiting vehicle, before being abandoned along the escarpment road in Lari,” Mr Hassan added.
The thugs then proceeded to the Governor area, drove off the main road and unloaded 900 cartons of milk before police got a whiff of the ongoing robbery.
“We were able to reach the scene, seize a vehicle and arrest two suspects but the lorry had been driven away by the time the officers arrived,” said the Naivasha DCI boss.
And on Saturday, acting on intelligence, police tracked down another two suspects, including the mastermind of some previous hijackings on the busy route.
Cross the border
According to Mr Hassan, after establishing that they were being trailed, the pair hired a taxi to Nakuru before boarding a matatu and travelling to the Malaba area.
“We suspect they wanted to cross the border but we were able to corner the duo. It is a big team but discreet investigations are in top gear. We are slowly dismantling the cartel,” he promised.
Those being sought by the police include boda boda operators used by the thugs for surveillance and to tip them off when police approach the area of an ongoing robbery.
Naivasha sub-county Police Commander Samuel Waweru concurred with the investigations boss, calling the arrest of the four a breakthrough in the fight against highway robberies.
“We shall be making more arrests as the suspects behind bars are assisting us with the ongoing probe,” he said.
Sources said one of the suspects sought by the police is in remand, arrested only days after the robbery.
He had failed to appear in court, with a warrant of arrest issued against him.
Mr Waweru said the hijackers had been assigned distinctive roles and were part of an elaborate robbery scheme that had ensnared several drivers on the route.
“Some pose as desperate travellers flagging down innocent transporters. They are usually the main link, relaying minute-by-minute information about the whereabouts of the targeted vehicle,” he explained.
In October, police recovered more than 500 bags of sugar stolen from a vehicle in transit.
The cargo was en route to the Mombasa port when the lorry’s crew was accosted by hijackers.
One of the trucks was loaded with 300 bags of sugar, while the second had 216. The hijacked lorry was ferrying the cargo from Njija in Uganda to Mombasa.
In June 2021, a gang killed a truck driver and made away with goods worth Sh1.8 million. The victim was ferrying bales of white flour to an unidentified location.
They waylaid the driver in the hilly Salama area on the Maai Mahiu-Naivasha highway. The trucker resisted the hijacking attempt and his assailants smothered him to death.
The attackers had entered the vehicle through the passenger’s door, which was not properly locked.
David Masinde, the national chairman of the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers Union, urged police to patrol crime-prone areas to help minimise the incidents.