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Kenya Government Plans Crackdown on Crime


The Kenyan government has promised to crack down on the flow of illegal arms into urban areas and the people using them. The government says a flood of weapons into Kenya from neighboring Somalia is partly responsible for the recent surge of violent crime, particularly in the capital Nairobi. From Nairobi, VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has this report.

In a speech broadcast live on national television and radio, Kenya's official government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, appealed for public help in apprehending nearly 24 men suspected of carrying out fatal carjackings and robberies in recent weeks.

"The police today will issue a list of at least 20 wanted very dangerous armed criminals who are roaming the streets and living in your neighborhoods," he said. "If you know where they are, tell us so that we can round them up."

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has expressed concern about the rise in violent crime, especially in and around the capital, where diplomats and foreigners have been targeted along with many Kenyans.

The police estimate at least 50 civilians and security officials have been killed in the past two months in incidents related to violent crime.

Most attackers have been armed with unlicensed AK-47 assault rifles, which the Kenyan government says are being smuggled in from war-ravaged Somalia and sold on the streets of Nairobi and elsewhere in the country.

Kenya has strict laws against possession of unlicensed weapons, and people who use them to commit crimes could face the death penalty.

But Government Spokesman Mutua says the laws are often ignored because of lax enforcement.

"We would like to correct this," he added. "So, if you are arrested with an illegal weapon - if it is the father and his son is using the weapon and it is in your house, all of you will be locked up and charged with capital punishment, so as to make sure this is taken with the seriousness it deserves."

To discourage criminal activities, Mutua says Kenyan security forces will also arrest and prosecute people who knowingly buy stolen goods.

Nairobi has long been known for its high-crime rate, earning it the unwanted nickname of "Nai-robbery" among residents.

But even long-time residents have been unnerved by the vicious and brazen nature of recent attacks, some of which have made headlines around the world.

Last August, carjackers in Nairobi stabbed Russia's ambassador to Kenya before robbing him. A month later, an American military attaché was wounded by armed carjackers, who ambushed his vehicle near the U.S. embassy.

In January, the wife and mother-in-law of a political officer at the U.S. embassy was shot and killed by carjackers on the outskirts of the capital. A week later, the regional director for the non-governmental organization CARE was gunned down during another attempted carjacking in Nairobi.

The insecurity prompted the United States to issue a warning Tuesday advising Americans not to travel to Kenya and warned Americans in the country to exercise caution.