NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two children and and an unborn child were killed in a Kenyan police operation aimed at detaining a family member, a human rights group said Saturday. Police confirmed the children’s deaths and asserted they were used as “human shields” by the man, whom they called a suspected Islamic extremist with an al-Qaida linked group.
He, too, was killed. The man’s son told the rights group he was beaten, taken away and shot.
A police report seen by The Associated Press said an elite unit went to the house in Kibundani area of coastal Kwale County in search of firearms Friday night.
The report said the unit had been directed there by another suspected member of al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia. Al-Shabab has been carrying out attacks inside Kenya since 2011 in retaliation for Kenya’s troop presence in Somalia.
The report says officers ordered the suspect to open his house but he refused.
“As the officers were preparing to break in, the suspect suddenly opened the door and threw a grenade towards the officers, slightly injuring one of them. This prompted the officers to open fire, fatally injuring him and two minors he was using as human shields,” it said.
The suspect’s wife and three other children sustained injuries, the report said.
Hussein Khalid, executive director of the rights group Haki Africa, said the wife was pregnant. She survived but the baby died in the womb, Khalid said. He said a 3-year-old girl was shot in the head. He spoke to the AP from the hospital after visiting the morgue where the bodies were taken.
He said police appear to have used excessive force.
In a video shared by the rights group, the suspect’s son, Ramadhan Chatswa, said his father rushed outside after hearing a relative shout about being attacked by thieves. Then he heard gunshots and a blast that sent him and his mother sprawling. He said he gathered the children and hid in another room but police broke through the door and fired, killing his 6-year-old nephew.
Police then dragged him out, he said. “It is then that I saw my sister lying on her stomach in a pool of blood. I loved my sister the most,” he said in his hospital bed, weeping. His father was taken away and shot, he said.
Rights groups for years have alleged that Kenyan police routinely kill suspects for various reasons, including extortion, and cover it up. More recently, police have been accused of killing at least 18 people who violated a dusk-to-dawn curfew the government has put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
A vetting exercise to scrutinize more than 100,000 officers that started in 2013 stopped without explanation earlier this year after a new team of commissioners took office at the National Police Service Commission, which oversees police operations.
Out of the 10,000 officers who had been vetted, 2,000 were fired.