Police arrest notorious Juba terror gangs

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[Juba, South Sudan, TCT, By ZITA PENZI, Guest Writer]  Last week, some suspected robbers were arrested during a crackdown in the city. They have often been branded as, “hard core” criminals by some crime busters in Juba City because their activities nearly converted the city into a pariah of insecurity.

[Juba, South Sudan, TCT, By ZITA PENZI, Guest Writer]  Last week, some suspected robbers were arrested during a crackdown in the city. They have often been branded as, “hard core” criminals by some crime busters in Juba City because their activities nearly converted the city into a pariah of insecurity.

Victims of this daring gang confessed that these thieves unleash fear and terror with a shocking measure of impunity.

Over the past few months, the heavily armed gangs have engaged security personnel in hide and seek games that left city residents near hostages.

They mugged, robbed and maimed their victims, and in some cases altercations would end up in fatal shootings.

Areas most affected included Munuki, Jebel, Tongpiny and Atla-bara residential areas where the gang even engaged in carjacking and broad-day light move-like attacks.

Their testimonies paint a picture of criminals on the loose, who have continued to terrorize city residents to a point of almost converting the city into their territory.

Those who spoke in confidence confessed their worst moments in their lives. They say the gangs target vehicles with temporary number plates or carjack motorists and drive off with them after robbing them of valuables including mobile phones and money.

“They carjacked me in Juba Nabare or Tongpiny as some people call it, confiscated my phones, took my cash and bundled me in the boot of my Toyota Premio car. They drove around the city and later dumped me in Gudele,” says Fred, not his real name.

Fred is a taxi driver and most of his clients hang out at night so he does most of his business at night. Unfortunately this is the prime time for the criminals who also waylay motorists on the poorly lit streets.

“They wielded guns at me. I had to stop and by the way, they don’t harm you. Their interest is money and valuables.So I simply played it cool by co-operating with them,” he adds.

Peter Hakim, not his real name, is a boda boda rider and operates near E-Base restaurant in Tongpiny residential area.

Peter says, he once rescued a motorist who had been carjacked and dumped in Munuki’s Suk Libya.

“I saw him lying by the roadside and it seemed they had also tortured him and he was unable to walk. They stole all his belongings plus his Toyota Noah car,” Peter recalls.

He says he is privy to similar incidents where motorists have been abducted and their stolen vehicles have not been traced to date.

Stanley Mutugi, a Kenyan taxi driver, was carjacked and robbed of his valuables including his Toyota Regius model car on Monday 9th September,

Mutugi says the gang threatened him with serious consequences if he dared raise an alarm.

“When they find you, they unleash terror in you to ensure you are terrified and demobilised,” he says.

On Sunday 8th September 2019, Abdi Mohammed was driving near Kololo area, down the American embassy when he was waylaid by a gang of four armed men.

“I had to literally reverse like a mad man, they brandished a pistol on my windscreen and one tried to open my passenger door but it was locked. I managed to escape by whisker, I think it was through God’s mercy,” Abdi’s says.

A fortnight ago, Abdi’s friend, Daudi, lost his brand new Toyota Harrier to the criminals who carjacked him as he came from a night club in Jebel area.

“My friend wanted to drop off his girlfriend so as he walked to the car to collect an umbrella because it was drizzling, two men accosted him and asked him to surrender the car keys at gun point,” Abdi’s recalls.

Some sources within the security sector said they are baffled by the sudden upsurge in the number of carjacking incidents.

“We have heard of so many cases of motor vehicle theft and one wonders whether these could be activities of the same criminal gangs like the Nigas or Toronto boys,” the confidential source said.

He however says the Toronto boys engage in petty crimes including mugging and pickpocketing.

“These are hard-core criminals because they also abduct people and steal vehicles. The stolen vehicles are either dismantled into spare parts or sold as scrap metal,” the source said.

Investigations further pointed out that the criminals target specific models of cars like ,Toyota Land cruiser V8, Toyota Harrier, Toyota Regius, Toyota Premio, Toyota Lexus Harrier, Toyota Noah and Toyota Voxy.

Emily Keringo a fruit seller in Suk Abyei says, “The best thing is to stay indoors and if possible, avoid unnecessary movements at night”.

She says the criminals do not strike when they have scanty information about their unsuspecting victim.

“By the time they prey on you, it means they have monitored your movements, your entertainment spots, your operations and spending. They don’t just gamble because they also know some suspects are armed,” Emily says.

She lives in Haisoura area, next to the University of Juba and says, the criminals target lone motorists who move at night and more so on lonely roads.

Agnes Okwiri works for a national Non-Governmental Organization and lives in Atlabara residential area. She knows very well the works of the criminal gangs.

“I have twice escaped their dragnets. In some cases they even use boulders to barricade some roads so they can make an easy catch. One day, they attempted to block my way near the Universal Printers in Tong Piny, I nearly crashed one of them when made a sudden u-turn,” Agnes says as a ray of fears flash across her face.

Such is the tempo and mood of most city residents who say, motorists are more vulnerable than pedestrians at night.

Those interviewed unanimously said there is need for security operators to unravel the puzzle of motor vehicle theft and carjacking in the city.

They said some garages have been converted into hideouts for stolen vehicles in the city.

“Some clients bring vehicles and instruct us to repaint it within a day, when they come to pick their cars, they turn up with new registration plates which they place on the vehicle after plucking off the initial plates,” says Bonny, a mechanic who operates near Kololo.

He says that some clients also turn up with vehicles suspected to have been stolen and insist that the units be dismantled into parts.

“When they turn up, they come with trucks or pick-ups to take away the parts,” says Bonny.

But last week, the long arm of the law caught up with some suspected members of the criminal gangs. This came barely a few days after Police Spokesperson Major General Major General Daniel Justine told the City Review that efforts were underway to completely rid the city of the terror gang.

Major Gen. Justine said though some arrests had been made, police were still on hot pursuit of the gang, which he described as “dangerous”.

“We have been conducting night patrols and so far we have made several arrests. We will not relent until we achieve our ultimate objecting of restoring law and order in the city,” he told the City Review on the phone.

He said security operators have mounted major operations across the city to rid it of crime.

Maj Gen. Justine disclosed that police also arrested a number of suspected criminals in recent sting operations in parts of the city.

“We have even recovered some vehicles suspected to have been stolen and arrested suspects, we are now doing investigations,” he said.

He said police have issued a directive against use of vehicles with temporary registration numbers because criminals have been targeting unregistered cars.

“When they hijack a car, they change its number plates and use it to engage in other criminal activities. We are not leaving anything to chance because criminals change their ways of operations. We will not relent in our crackdown on criminals until the situation is arrested,” said Maj. Gen. Justine.

He says investigators have been following crucial leads to burst the cartels within a short period.

Earlier in the year, Maj. Gen Justine said police had managed to apprehend more than ten cars stolen at gun point and others during robbery.

“These vehicles were scattered at the borders with some found in Aweil, Abyei, Wau, Rumbek and Juba,” Maj Gen Justine said.

Hot on the heels of Maj Gen Justine’s sentiments were Interior Minister Michael Chiengjiek’s confirmation that security forces had arrested a number of suspected criminals in connection with night robberies in Juba.

The arrest came amidst complaints by Juba residents in regard to rise in crime in the city.

In some cases, residents say armed men in uniform hijack vehicles in town. Others say the criminals loot their property such as vehicles, laptops and mobile phones.

Speaking on the state-run SSBC television Minister Chiengjiek said, “The last incident some criminals killed a trader near the Mobil roundabout. I am happy also to inform the people and public that those culprits have now been arrested and they are now under the custody of the CID for investigation, they have confessed. And I want to assure the public that we have done our best to make sure that criminals should not disrupt peace and tranquility.” 

However, Minister Chiengjiek fell short of disclosing how many suspects had been arrested neither did he reveal their identities. Sometimes back, President Salva Kiir said some of those behind night crimes in Juba are members of the organized forces.

This article first appeared on the City Review weekly newspaper. Published with permission*

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