, NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 18 – A massive hunt for nine hardcore criminals who escaped while being escorted from Nyamira to the Kisii Law Courts was still underway on Monday afternoon, several hours after they staged daring break out.
Police and prison authorities said they had managed to re-arrest four out of 13 criminals who escaped after spraying police officers with pepper.
“We already have four of them back in custody but the rest are still at large. They are hiding in villages here but we hope to re-arrest them because members of the public are very cooperative,” a senior police officer taking part in the manhunt told Capital News on telephone.
According to police, two of those recaptured were found hiding in people’s houses while others were found in a thicket at a nearby river bank.
“Our officers are on the ground searching for the rest who fled. We hope to get them as soon as possible,” another senior officer said, adding that those re-arrested would be charged in court for escaping from lawful custody.
The escapees were facing charges ranging from robbery with violence, murder and other criminal offences.
Authorities at the prisons headquarters in Nairobi told Capital News the inmates were being guarded by police officers at the time they made the escape.
“Our [Prison] warders are only involved in assisting the police to re-arrest them. They were not guarding them when they escaped,” the officer speaking on condition of anonymity said.
He said the prisoners were being ferried in a police truck from the Nyamira Police station to the Kisii Law courts when they made the dash for freedom at about 9am.
Authorities said some of the prisoners are believed to have escaped with gunshot injuries but there were no immediate reports of any fatality.
Police headquarters said it would investigate to establish if the escape of the prisoners was linked to a reported go-slow by police and prison officers who are angered by the government’s failure to pay them phase II of their salary increment in this month’s pay.
Officers have been jamming communication gadgets and some had vowed to paralyse operations unless they are assured of their pay increase which is supposed to reflect in the July pay slip.
Deputy Police Spokesman Charles Wahong’o sought to re-assure the officers on Monday, saying the issue was being addressed internally.
“The matter is under control, there should be no panic at all. We have spoken to our officers and assured them of the same. The country’s security has not been compromised,” he said.
Mr Wahong’o said the incident in Kisii was not “in any way linked to the said go-slow within the force.”