NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s head of criminal investigations said Friday that police now believe that a man who grabbed a gun from a police officer and shot randomly at people a week ago, killing two and seriously wounding six, is likely an Islamic extremist.
The incident occurred in Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, that has never experienced an extremist attack.
Circulating CCTV close-ups of the man, George Kinoti asked the public to help identify the assailant, who was later killed by a mob when he ran out of bullets, as police have been unable to trace his background. No one has come to claim the man’s body, he said.
Kinoti said detectives, working with the anti-terrorism unit, “have reasons to believe that the assailant was not just the ordinary criminal, but prior to the attack received training in tactical maneuvers and weapon handling.”
“Given our experience, our preliminary conclusion (is that) he is an Islamic extremist. We want to know if he was alone or there is a cell or network remaining, we urge for public support to identify him,” Kinoti told the Associated Press.
Three identification cards found on the man belonged to three different people who do not know the assailant, he said.
According to a police report the man, wearing gloves and a hood overpowered a police officer, grabbed his gun and shot him.
No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting, but since 2011 Kenya has experienced numerous terrorist attacks from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group that is based in Somalia.
Al-Shabab has recruited most of its foreign fighters from Kenya, which has a large ethnic Somali presence, as well as from other tribes.
If police establish a connection between the assailant and al-Shabab it will be the first Islamic extremist attack on a major city since al-Shabab’s January 15 2019 raid on an office complex in Nairobi that killed 21 people.
Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants who are trying to topple the government and establish an Islamic state.
More recently the group’s attacks have focused on five counties in Kenya that border Somalia.