, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 24 – Nairobi detectives were trailing Michael Mwaniki, 23, and his accomplices for months until Sunday, August 20 when they caught up with him at his hideout in Witeithie, Kiambu County.
He had been profiled as one of the “most wanted thugs” and according to senior officers in Kayole, Mwaniki was callous while executing his evil schemes.
According to police, Mwaniki was until his death the leader of Gaza, a ruthless criminal gang whose ideology is cult-like and draws inspiration from a jailed Jamaican artist Vybz Kartel, who is serving a life sentence for killing his associate.
Besides being ruthless, Mwaniki is said to have been crafty and would be quick to eliminate a competitor or anyone he suspected was spying for the authorities.
“Mwaniki at one point killed two colleagues for befriending his wife Claire, who has since been killed,” a senior officer who did not want to be named told the Capital FM News investigative team.
Claire was killed by police on May 12 together with another colleague, where two guns were recovered but two of her accomplices managed to escape.
But how did police establish the whereabouts of Mwaniki?
Nairobi detectives infiltrated the Gaza gang, which has about six surviving members on the run while the rest have died while confronting the police.
“It was not an easy task to get him. He has foot soldiers who would always alert him every time we would plan a raid,” the detective said.
Of his informers, he admitted some are police officers who benefitted from his proceeds of crime.
– Mwaniki’s order for ammunition –
Early on Sunday, Mwaniki had called their supplier (name withheld) of ammunition, asking for a delivery later in the afternoon.
The supplier was the police informer as established by Capital FM News.
“As soon as our informer alerted us about his hideout and that they were to meet that afternoon, we prepared a team and we had hoped that he will be arrested together with the rest of the criminals. But we went there cautiously since they were armed,” the detective revealed.
At around 2pm on Sunday, the informer accompanied by a team of armed police officers in plain clothes arrived at Mwaniki’s hideout in Thika where they met ‘face to face’.
– Smoking bhang –
Mwaniki and one of his accomplices had gone to one of the residences to “smoke weed. They did not know who we were.”
But as shrewd as he was, Mwaniki smelt a rat; there were suspicious faces in his ‘kingdom.’
It is at that time, the detective narrated, that he removed his Ceska pistol and started firing at them.
“A fierce shootout ensued and in the process both were killed…the Gaza leader was dead,” he said.
The Ceska pistol serial number was A879675, belonging to the army. Police officers also recovered 21 rounds of ammunition.
“They might have stolen from an army officer…” the officer explained.
But in the house, there were six others gang members who were also armed with an AK-47, which they stole from two police officers they had killed two days before within the same area.
The six managed to escape and days later, police are still pursuing them.
“We have profiled them…we know their names and a little bit of their history,” he said,
– Informer killed –
Hours later after the raid and the killing of Mwaniki and his accomplice, the person police were relying on for intelligence, was also killed.
“He made a huge mistake…he went back to them without informing us at an unknown location but still within Thika. They brutally killed him,” the officer said.
The said informer had served a jail sentence before he was released.
According to police, his colleagues tortured him before strangling him to death. “Though he was not seen during the raid, they must have known that he was the one who spied on them.”
– Mwaniki’s childhood –
Mwaniki hails from Kirinyaga County but was raised in Kayole, B3 area.
He went to Imara Primary School and later proceeded to Joy Valley Secondary School in the same area.
“He was calm but a naughty student,” a classmate who did not want to be mentioned said. “He did not finish school though. I learnt that he had been killed through Facebook posts.”
Police records show that he started as a petty thief engaging in muggings and snatching handbags before he graduated to ‘bigger’ crimes.
His first assignment was to protect a tycoon’s land in Kayole together with another gang of 10.
They were even handed certificates of membership in ceremony witnessed by a local county legislator according to police.
After a while, they were permitted to sell a section of the land and it is at that point, “they started buying guns. Gaza was formed.”
They have four ‘foot soldiers’ providing them with intelligence.
– Interview with Kayole police boss –
The Officer Commanding Kayole Police Division (OCPD) Joseph Gichangi says the criminal gang still poses a major security challenge to the residents of the city but says “we have managed to dismantle the group.”
“We will not stop until the Gaza group is dismantled completely,” he said. “We shall not allow them to have a comfort zone in Kayole.”
A taskforce formed to unravel how it operates, Gichangi revealed, established that the group does not have firm structures.
“They also managed to discover that they were using young ladies to assist them carry weapons which were later used against members of the public. It was a tactic that was being used and we have since addressed it squarely,” he said.
“The issue of profiling the criminals has assisted us…we are still following the traces of these criminals.”
– WhatsApp security groups –
With community policing, he says the security situation has improved and that is why “the Gaza gang members are running to other areas. But we won’t stop until we arrest them.”
He said police had formed security WhatsApp groups to complement community policing, where they receive real-time intelligence.
“Previously, we used to have a lot of cases being reported, ranging from mugging to robbery with violence, but we can say the situation is manageable since such cases have dropped,” he said during an interview with Capital FM News.
Police records indicate that more than 34 youths, all members of the criminal gang in the area have been killed since 2014 – Mwaniki and his colleague being the latest.
During that time, the gangs have killed more than six police officers, and in some cases, fled with their firearms.
The latest was on Friday, August 18, when they killed two police officers in Kiambu County.
Mwaniki was part of the gang that killed the officers before fleeing with an AK-47 belonging to one of the officers.
Later on Friday evening, as seen in photos evidence shown to Capital FM News by police, they were seen celebrating the act, while holding the firearm.
The police informer, who has since killed leaked the photo to the detectives.
– Radicalization –
An investigation piece done by Capital FM News in April on the same gang drew a worrying picture of what has been termed as a mere criminal gang.
During an Interview with an undercover detective, who cannot be named due to the nature of his job, he revealed that the gang at some time devised a “war ethical code.”
They also had a training book, that was recovered during one of the recent raids, “on how to kill a cop” and other materials.
– Political hand –
Inside the mix of crime and tears shed by the victims of their acts, are politicians, who according to police use Gaza and other criminal gangs for “protection.”
Police say politicians have been financing the group and at times using it to either cause havoc during political events or cause tension or to attack their perceived political enemies.
This year, two aspiring Members of County Assembly were killed in Kayole by suspected members of the Gaza gang.
On February 24, some members of the gang were ‘hired’ to go and fence some disputed land in Athi River, which belongs to the East Africa Portland Cement Company.
Three of them were killed instantly by a rival gang in Athi River, which was manning the land while two succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment in hospital.
The country has tens of other criminal gangs and other than security loopholes, unemployment has been identified as a major reason why so many youths have resulted to crime.