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Somalis held after secret flight to Kenya

By BOB ODALO
and WAWERU MUGO

A plane carrying illegal Somali immigrants breached Kenya's airspace undetected and landed at a rural air strip. It then took off, again undetected, in a major security lapse.

All aircraft entering the country are supposed to register their presence with air traffic control and receive permission to fly into Kenyan airspace.

However, the plane, said to have been on private charter from Somalia, landed without official permission, at 2 pm yesterday on an airstrip near Masinga Dam, at Yatta, near Machakos, senior police sources said.

The operation appeared to have been well coordinated, with the plane being met by a convoy of four mini-buses and a saloon car, which ferried the passengers towards Nairobi.

Suspicious onlookers immediately alerted the police who threw a series of road blocks around the area and stopped one of the buses, seizing 17 passengers. They took them to Masinga police post, where they were being held last night.

A further four Somali passengers were arrested later - bringing to 21 the total believed to have been on the plane - together with 40 other Somali aliens and seven Kenyans, held on suspicion of having helped them to gain entry to the country.

Among the Kenyans was a mini-bus driver, his conductor and two agents of the refugees who were not carrying identity papers.

Of the 40 Somalis arrested later, 14 were caught on a bus full of Sudanese refugees who were being taken from Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa to Nairobi for treatment.

They were under the charge of an official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Mr Gilbert Ng'etich. He was ordered to go to the Yatta police post where it was discovered that the 14 had boarded the vehicle illegally and without identification papers.

The UN officials all absolved themselves from blame and told the police to interrogate the bus driver and his conductor who allowed them onto the bus.

The driver, Mr. Silas Musyoka, his conductor Mr Ibrahim Kuso and the bus manager, Mr Abdi Isaac, were held for questioning. The 14 Somalis were then arrested and detained at Matuu police post while the rest of the refugees who had official papers were allowed to continue to Nairobi under police escort.

Police said no firearms were found either with the Somalis who arrived by plane or those on the bus full of refugees.

Confirming the arrests, Machakos police boss Julius Narangwi said all the aliens were likely to be charged with being in the country illegally.


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