NAIROBI, Kenya – Human rights officials accused the Kenyan police Friday of eliminating suspected terrorists after armed men dragged a terror suspect out of a car. He was the third terror suspect to be abducted since April.
Lawyer Mbugua Mureithi said Sylvester Opiyo, also known as Musa Osodo, is the "usual suspect" in terror-related investigations. Opiyo was abducted by armed men Wednesday after the car he was traveling in with five other people broke down in western Kenya, Mureithi said. Police have denied they are holding him.
"When the police begin to say we are not holding that person, that is a very dangerous sign . People are never seen again when police say they don't know where the suspects are," Mureithi said.
"Who has the audacity to abduct people where there are witnesses?" Mbugua asked.
Two terror suspects were abducted by armed men on the Kenyan coast last month. One was found dead two days later, mutilated. The other man has not been found.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said Friday the allegation that police are responsible for executions and abductions "is the work of fiction."
The three abductions are not the first time Kenyan police have been accused of extra-judicial actions against security threats. In 2007 the government-funded Kenya National Commission For Human Rights documented the executions and forced disappearances of more than 500 youths associated with a gang known for beheading its victims and running extortion rackets.
Al-Amin Kimathi of the Muslim Human Rights Forum said a pattern is forming where suspects last seen in police custody disappear without a trace.
"I don't doubt that he was taken by the police. I am fearing that this may be a forced disappearance," he said.
Kimathi in 2007 exposed the extraordinary rendition of about 150 terror suspects to secret jails in Ethiopia where they were being interrogated by Western security agents, including the CIA.
Chacha Mwita, Opiyo's, lawyer, said his client had been hired to drive four women to Kenya's third-largest city, Kisumu, when the car broke down. He was accompanied by a friend, Jacob Musyoka, who was also taken and is still missing, Chacha said.
Mwita related that the women — two young ladies escorted by their mothers to attend an Islamic school — said that before the car broke down Opiyo told the group they were being trailed by other vehicles. Opiyo identified a senior police officer from the anti-terrorism police unit in the restaurant when the group stopped for lunch, Mwita said.
Opiyo had been arrested on several occasions following a series of grenade attacks that intensified after Kenya sent troops to Somalia in October to pursue al-Qaida-linked militants blamed for a wave of kidnappings on Kenyan soil.
Police say Opiyo is one of hundreds of Kenyan youths who are sympathetic to the Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has vowed to attack Kenya in retaliation for its troop deployment.
Opiyo was arrested in March after three grenades were thrown at a Nairobi bus stop, killing nine people. He was released without charge.