Killing of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif adds to Kenya’s list of high-profile murders

Kenya has over the years featured in international news because of the high-profile murders, with the fatal shooting of renowned Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif adding to the string of killings.

The killing of Mr Sharif comes hot on the heels of the deepening mystery surrounding the disappearance of two Indian nationals – Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan and Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai – who were kidnapped in Nairobi and whose whereabouts have not been known since July this year.

According to the police, Mr Sharif – who died on the spot under a hail of bullets sprayed by the General Service Unit (GSU) police officers from Magadi Training School – was killed in a case of mistaken identity. Reports said he was a passenger in a moving vehicle after it failed to stop at a police roadblock.

He died around 9pm on Sunday as he was being driven by his friend, Mr Kurram Ahmed.

Murdered Indians

The disappearance of the two Indians has been blamed on the disbanded crack police squad known as the Special Service Unit (SSU). The two were reported to have arrived in Kenya in April to join President William Ruto’s digital campaign team. They went missing on July 25 after they were abducted outside Ole Sereni Hotel along Mombasa Road.

Mr Khan, a former Balaji Telefilms chief operating officer, and his friend went missing alongside Kenyan taxi driver Nicodemus Mwania.

Julie Ward case

Julie Ward

Julie Ward, who was found murdered in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in September 1988. 

Photo credit: File | nation Media Group

The list of high-profile mystery deaths in Kenya also includes that of Julie Ward in September 1988.

Ms Ward, a publishing assistant, disappeared on September 7, 1988 from her campsite at the Masai Mara game reserve.

A week later, her charred and mutilated remains were found at Makari area in the reserve. Ms Ward had left Suffolk, UK, for a seven-month trip to Kenya.

Although she had been raped and hacked to death, and her body doused in petrol and burned, the Kenyan authorities refused to conduct an inquiry.

Initially, they insisted that she had either committed suicide or been killed by wild animals, but the court would rule in October 1989 that Ms Ward was murdered.

Father Kaiser

Mary Gakui from lolgorian in Transmara, carries a portrait of Father John Kaiser during a peaceful demonstration to mark the tenth commemoration since the death of Father John Kaiser, at the Holy Family Bascilica in Nairobi, August 19th, 2010.

On August 23, 2000, Father John Anthony Kaiser was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun. A butcher found his body the next day lying beneath two acacia trees at Morendat junction on the Nakuru-Naivasha road.

The American Mill Hill missionary priest had had several run-ins with the government since the 1992 elections.

In 1994, when the Daniel arap Moi administration was forcibly closing down a displacement camp in Maela, Ngong, Father Kaiser protested, leading to his arrest, beating, and release into the bush by the police.

After the 1997 polls, the priest appeared before the Justice Akilano Akiwumi Commission in 1998, where he linked several serving government officials to electoral violence.

In 1999, he assisted two girls who had accused a Moi government Cabinet minister of rape. In November of that year, he briefly went into hiding in Kisii after the government tried to deport him.

It took the intervention of then-US Ambassador Johnnie Carson for him to be granted a new work permit.

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) investigators called in by the Kenyan government concluded that the priest had committed suicide.

Abdullah Öcalan

Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan

A Kurdish youth holds up a portrait of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan during Newroz celebrations in Istanbul, on March 23, 2008. 

Photo credit: AFP

There was also the dramatic capture and arrest of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in 1999. Turkey’s most wanted man, who had been staying at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi for a while, was waylaid by Turkish officials as he planned to leave Kenya for the Netherlands with his bodyguards.

At the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Mr Öcalan boarded a private jet that he thought had been sent from the Netherlands for his transportation. Little did he know that the plane's final destination was Turkey.

He would be handcuffed and blindfolded after getting onboard before being deported to Turkey, where he was sentenced to death. However, it was later commuted to life in prison.

In June 2021, 55-year-old Dutch businessman Herman Rouwenhorst was found murdered in his apartment in Mombasa after an alleged kidnapping.

Mr Rouwenhorst, who owned multiple nightclubs in Mombasa and Kilifi, had moved to Kenya six years before to be with his girlfriend.

He was found dead in his bed with his hands and feet tied and his mouth gagged. An injured bodyguard found at the residence later succumbed to his wounds.

In August 2017, the bodies of a Swiss couple were found dumped by the roadside in Mombasa with their bodies wrapped in a blanket.

The bodies had severe injuries. One had deep cuts on the head. Police said it seemed they were killed using sharp and blunt objects.

In 2014, Russian and German tourists were robbed and murdered in Mombasa in two separate incidents.