The Comissioner of Police for Training and Operation, Nsato Mssanzya told journalists yesterday that the force has launched a manhunt after the Thursday evening killings.
He said at least two weapons out of seven, which were robbed from the slain officers by bandits have been recovered, so far. He said that police managed to gun-down the suspects and recovered two weapons in the same locality where the incident that involved the killing of police officers took place.
“Police carried out a quick intelligence investigation which involved sending some officers to the area. Our men managed to discover the criminals’ temporary hideout and in an exchange of gunfire, four bandits were killed,” Commissioner Mssanzya said.
He also observed that a special intense operation has been lodged in Kibiti District and all its neighbouring areas, warning that the police will not be sympathetic to any form of criminality.
“We have lost many officers in similar incidents, that is enough, there is no mercy, we are now going to do what the police are required to do,” he observed.
He, however, noted that the police will deal fully with the criminals in a non-stopoperation, calling upon members of the public to support them while they carry out their duties. “As for those criminals that are planning to carry out any criminal activity in the near future, I am warning them, they should abandon that cowardly plan,” he noted.
Explaining why similar incidents have been occurring in the area, Commissioner Mssanzya pointed out that a large portion of Rufiji, Ikwiriri and Kibiti itself is surrounded by forests and good roads, the area can easily be reached.
Commissioner Mssanzya said there were very few residential homes and thus it has been easy for criminals to make their hideouts in the area.
According to Commissioner Mssanzya, it was too early to link the ongoing incidents with terrorism since there was no evidence for that.
He said a small group of criminals is causing fear in the area. He vowed that police will crash all criminals in the area and across the country. “This incident does not in any way relate to terrorism, what has happened is a criminal activity which was carried out by a group of bandits, who I can assure you that we are going to apprehend them,” he stressed.
How the attack happened
At around 6:15 pm on Thursday, a group of suspected bandits ambushed a police vehicle with registration number PT 3713 Toyota Land Cruiser at Bungu area in Uchembe Village.
At least eight police officers were killed on the spot and one was injured. The incident occurred on the Dar es Salaam- Lindi highway. According to Commissioner Mssanzya, the deceased were attacked after they had exchanged patrol area with other officers.
The criminals managed to escape with seven firearms including four SMGs and three long range rifles. He mentioned the deceased as Assistant Inspector Peter Kigugu, F 3451 Corporal Francis, F 6990 PC Haruna and G 3247 PC Jackson.
Others are H 1872 PC Zacharia, H 5503 PC Siwale, H 7629 PC Maswi and H 7680 PC Ayoub.
Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said the government has increased the number of police officers and facilities in Kibiti District in Coast Region as part of the state plan to establish a special police zone.
He said starting now; there will be endless police patrols in the dangerous town and hunting down of gunmen who have been terrorising dozens of civilians and police officers in recent months.
“We are going to conduct special operation in the area. I have increased the number of police and equipment to help maintain peace and order in the area,” Mr Nchemba told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ in an Interview.
However, Mr Mwigulu could not establish why the area has recently become a hot spot for killing innocent people and police officers, but said the plan is to restore security in the once-peaceful area.
He added that whoever is involved in the criminal incident will pay the price. He added that all robbed weapons will be recovered. “We will hunt them down and all of them will pay the price,” he said.
Coast Regional Commissioner (RC), Eng Evarist Ndikilo, said the government is looking forward to conduct new registration for all people conducting various activities in the nearby forests.
However, the RC said most of the residents in the area were not cooperative to the police force and other government officers. “I would like to ask ‘wananchi’ in this area to cooperate with the government and help us to deal with such kind of incidents, as the government, we are going to win this battle,” he said.
State House sends condolence message
President John Magufuli said in a condolence message to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ernest Mangu that he has received the news on the death of the officers with shock.
“I am saddened by the death of eight police officers. The deceased were serving the nation. I join the families of the deceased, the police force and all Tanzanians in this difficult time. We have lost young, energetic, patriotic and brave officers in our country.
The President has also condemned the incident and all other events of attacking police officers who are doing their best to protect citizens and their property.
The Head of State called upon all Tanzanians to cooperate with security agents in ending the bad practices and crime across the country.
Villagers speak out
Some villagers who requested anonymity for security reasons asked the government to strengthen security in the area, saying they were living in fear.
“We are living in fear of being attacked. Our village leaders are being killed, police officers are killed as well, this means no one is safe,” said one of the residents.
Another villager said whenever a villager is suspected of cooperating with the police; he/she receives threats through mobile text messages. “I cannot even mention my name here because of my security, they will send me a warning text,” said the villager.
Cases where armed gangsters attack police officers under the cover of darkness and take guns have been on the rise in the recent years. Moreover, several incidents that involve killing of police officers and government officers have been in the rise in recent months.