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Kenyan security forces responsible for killings

July 20, 2016

A human rights group has accused Kenyan security forces of abducting and killing men whom they suspect of having links to Islamist extremists in northeast Kenya. All the reported victims are of ethnic Somali origin.

Kenya Police
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that security forces in Kenya are responsible for at least 34 "enforced disappearances" and 11 suspected "extrajudicial killings" in the past two years.

The HRW report detailed stories of people taken from their homes or beaten in the streets by masked, armed men who did not identify themselves before being driven away in government vehicles. Some of the disappeared were reportedly last seen in police or military custody.

The events were reported to have taken place in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties as well as the capital, Nairobi, as part of extensive counterterrorism operations in Kenya's predominately ethnic Somali northeast.

Radicalization among ethnic-Somali youths

HRW urged Kenyan authorities to investigate the disappearances and the deaths of detainees in the northeast, citing cases where suspects arrested over alleged ties with the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group al-Shabab had disappeared.

Ken Roth, HRW's executive director, said that the documented cases were "just the tip of the iceberg."

"People in northeastern Kenya deserve protection from al-Shabab attacks, not further abuse from the authorities," he said, adding that "rounding people up and refusing to disclose their whereabouts is a serious crime and only compounds fears and mistrust in the security forces."

Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said a police oversight committee would carry out an independent investigation. Kenyan police have come under fire recently over the killings of a lawyer and two others whose bodies were found dumped in a river in June.

Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has regularly been accused of intimidating or killing suspects, with both human rights and academic researchers repeatedly warning that this helps drive radicalization.

Kenya has suffered numerous terrorist attacks by al-Shabab, including an assault on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in 2013 and a massacre of students at a university in Garissa in 2015.

ss/kl (AP, AFP)