February 5, 2016

Garissa massacre: Aircraft scandal that delayed Recce team from getting to Garissa

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Inside details communicated within the National Police Service reveal exactly why the Ruiru-based Recce squad delayed in reaching Garissa last week while terrorists wreaked havoc on university students.

One of the damning revelations said to be the subject of intense investigation with the police is that an aircraft that should have flown the Recce team to Garissa had been irregularly leased out to a private businessman.

As a result, the Recce squad that was supposed to be expeditiously flown to Garissa to neutralise the blood-thirsty terrorists’ misadventure that had started at 5.30am, had no standby means to do so for several hours.

Sources from within Recce reveal that one of the police aircraft, a Cessna 208B registration number 5YPOL that was to take the squad to Garissa had flown to Mombasa on a private non-police mission.

According to an Authorisation Sheet seen by the People Daily, the Kenya Police Air Wing aircraft, the Cessna had left Wilson Airport at 7.30am and arrived at the Moi International Airport Mombasa at 9.30am having been hired out by senior police officers to a Nairobi businessman (name withheld), in a questionable procedure.

Police aircraft are not supposed to be deployed to private or civilian engagement, unless in emergencies and with authorisation from the Inspector General. Tellingly, on Wednesday this week, the Police Air Wing director Patrick Ochieng wrote a memo to staff under him stating that no police aircraft should take off without his approval.

The memo is copied to Inspector General Police Joseph Boinnet and the two Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs) Grace Kaindi and Samwel Arachi.

State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu on Thursday, speaking in a meeting with senior editors, admitted mistakes were made during the rescue operation but did not specify. As the Recce team were awaited in Garissa to back up the Kenya Defence Forces, the aircraft crew – Senior Superintendent James Kabo and Inspector Mutai had picked a man, woman, and child from Mombasa to Nairobi.

They left Mombasa at 9.45, arriving at Wilson at 11.35am. By then Boinnet and Interior Cabinet Secretary Maj General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery had arrived in Garissa, having given a directive that the Recce team be flown promptly to the north eastern town.

A statement signed by Boinnet read in part: “When the incident occurred, a combined force of security agencies swung into action immediately. The Inspector General and Cabinet secretary for Interior immediately left for Garissa, arriving there at 10.00hours.”

As at that time, the Recce commandos who are competent in close combat, urban warfare and hostage rescue missions were still stranded at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport waiting the aircraft from Mombasa.

The first batch of 10 officers from the Recce Company had been told to leave for Garissa earlier aboard another Cessna 208B registration 5Y-GSU, but their command insisted they should all leave altogether. Though police have four MI-17 helicopters namely 5Y-STA, 5Y-SFA, 5Y-EDM, and 5Y-UKW –which can carry a substantial number of troops, none is in serviceable condition.

However, when the aircraft from Mombasa finally arrived, the Recce commandos departed with the first batch eventually leaving Wilson Airport at 12.23pm in 5Y-GSU. At 12.30pm, the second batch left in the aircraft that had gone to Mombasa that morning, 5YPOL.

At Wilson Airport earlier before he left for Garissa, Boinnet had directed Ochieng to organise for the flights and, shortly afterwards, the Recce commanding officer called his seniors at the airport and informed them he had finished briefing the squad for the mission and was set to fly. It was at this point that the non-availability of 5YPOL which had gone to Mombasa was realised.

Though there was another aircraft, 5Y-COP, at the airport, it could not take the officers to Garissa since the GSU commandant Joel Kitili and his team were to leave for Baringo that morning using the aircraft.

Kitili was to lead a planned operation following cattle raids the previous day and also the expiry of 48 hours Boinnet had issued on March 29 to rustlers hiding in Suguta Valley to return illegal firearms and stolen livestock.

The authorisation sheet further shows that the aircraft in question, 5YPOL, landed in Garissa at 1.55pm. Recce sources have further established that their fallen officer, Police Constable Bernard Tonui died from a grenade explosion and not from a gunshot by the terrorists, as he jumped from above to try to seize the terrorist who had the device that exploded.

Sources indicated that KDF rescue was temporarily hampered when the advancing KDF officers were contained in one of the cubicles in a lower floor by a hail of sniper bullets by the terrorists perched above. “KDF were at some point rendered immobile in a cubicle as the terrorists had taken vantage points on upper floors,” our source added.

After the briefing, they studied the building’s architectural plan and effected a tactical change-over with Recce when the team arrived. The latter moved in, lined in a single file while heavily armed, including with explosives. In a record 17 minutes, they had killed four terrorists, all with bullets to the head, while the one with a grenade was grabbed by PC Tonui.

In the process, a combination of heavy fire power and grenade pellets hurled by terrorists had seven of the Recce team members injured. With their mission accomplished, the squad left for Nairobi at 3.45pm arriving at 5.15pm. However, the long delay in the dispatching of the Recce squad has been blamed for the tragic killing spree by terrorists that lasted about seven hours.


One Response to “Garissa massacre: Aircraft scandal that delayed Recce team from getting to Garissa”
  1. Owiti says:

    This story is unnecessary. Kenya is not a banana republic. There is Moi Air base and Embakasi (50 Air Cavalry). All those are planes that can be used to save Kenyan life.

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