Drugs link suspected
in Somali plane
and ODHIAMBO ORLALE
were yesterday investigating a possible drugs and gun
running link in Friday's violation of Kenya's airspace
by a light aircraft.
were searching for a Toyota Corolla station wagon said
to have been loaded with "suspicious cargo" from the plane,
but which escaped a police dragnet thrown immediately
it was established the plane had landed illegally.
said one of the bags, which was torn while being loaded
onto the vehicle, emitted "a whitish substance which is
being analysed to establish its nature".
for comment, the Machakos deputy police boss, Mr Kegode
Kidiavai, said: "We have taken samples of the powder and
will forward them for testing. However, investigations
are still at a preliminary stage."
plane, said to have been on private charter from Somalia,
landed at 2 pm on Friday at an airstrip at Masinga Dam,
at Yatta, near Machakos, senior police sources said.
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.
onlookers immediately alerted the police, who threw a
series of roadblocks 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.
four immigrants were arrested later, bringing to 21 the
total believed to have been on the plane. Forty other
Somalis and seven Kenyans were being held on suspicion
of having helped them to gain entry to the country.
the Kenyans was a mini-bus driver, his conductor and two
agents of the refugees who had no identity papers.
entire Eastern Provincial Security team travelled to Masinga
to investigate the violation, but Cabinet Minister Julius
Sunkuli, who is in charge of the security docket, assured
Kenyans that the country's airspace was safe.
security forces are on full alert to ensure that the incident
is not repeated," said Mr Sunkuli in an interview with
the Sunday Nation in Nairobi.
Sunkuli denied claims that most of the 21 illegal immigrants
who were arrested after the incident were women and children
after their male colleagues escaped the police dragnet.
information is very misleading as far as our records are
concerned because once the police received the tip off
they quickly mounted road blocks and arrested most of
the Somali immigrants," the minister said.
whether the recent sacking of airline controllers and
replacement with retired colleagues and new recruits could
have been taken advantage of by the masterminds of the
Friday charter flight, Mr Sunkuli denied it saying the
incident was an isolated one which had little to do with
the airline controllers.
minister maintained that the Kenyan airspace was well
protected and covered by the police, the Air Force and
the Directorate of Civil Aviation and there was therefore
no cause for alarm.
even as he spoke, security experts warned that the full
impact of the breach had not been appreciated.
70 per cent of the country's hydro-electricity is generated
in the Masinga area and experts said the breach had exposed
major weaknesses that could be exploited to sabotage the
country's power supply.
airstrip where the plane landed is used by KenGen and
Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited staff.
aircraft landed at Kamburu airstrip, just hundreds of
metres from the strategic Gitaru power generation station.
The Kamburu, Gitaru, Kiambere and Masinga dams are strategic
national installations as they generate over 70 per cent
of the country's power supply.
flights into the country are only supposed to land at
the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi International
Airport Mombasa, Moi International Airport, Eldoret or
the Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Lockichoggio airport is
reserved for flights leaving the country for southern
herdsman, who witnessed the episode from yards away, told
the Sunday Nation: "The vehicles, a matatu and
a small white car, arrived within 15 minutes of each other.
Fifteen minutes afterwards, the aircraft arrived."
the plane landed and taxied to a halt, three men jumped
off, others in the plane threw the children and baggage
into their arms as the women trooped out. In about three
minutes, the vehicles were speeding away and the plane
on the runway on its way back to the sky," the startled
eyewitness who sought anonymity said.
investigating the incident confirmed that they were investigating
the drug-trafficking theory. Meanwhile, UNHCR country
representative George Okoth-Obbo has denied the involvement
of any of his staff in the syndicate.