NAIROBI - Human rights organizations in Kenya have raised questions over the September 11 killings of three girls at a police station in Mombasa.
Authorities say the young women were Islamic State terrorists who attacked the officers with a knife, a suicide vest and a fuel bomb, and that one officer was injured. Human rights organizations say the story is a cover-up for police abuses.
Days after the incident, a video emerged showing the events unfolding in the police compound. The video begins with one of the girls writhing in pain, followed by seven gunshots.
Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) chairperson Khelef Khalifa says the girls, two of whom were sisters, did not pose a threat to the officers and should have been arrested, not killed.
"In the videos, it shows very clearly that one of the ladies was alive and there were two officers — in turns, they were shooting at her several bullets, and to us that was wrong,” Khalifa said. “They could have arrested these girls, taken them to court, but they didn't. The other video emerges inside the police station — she was still alive 'til a quarter to one and the incident happened around 10 o'clock."
Police spokesman Charles Owino disagrees.
"Dead people don't tell tales, but if the situation is such that there is no alternative but to have them die in order to protect the majority of the people, then it happens, but it happens with a very heavy heart; it happens without us having intentions to particularly have them dead," Owino said. "We would want them, every suspect, to be caught alive."
Kenyan media report a postmortem examination revealed two of the girls died from bullet wounds in the head and chest, while the third girl died from burns.
Khalifa says the father of the two sisters testified that he wouldn't hold anyone responsible for their deaths.
"This man, we met him at the mortuary, so we demand there must be a proper autopsy,” Khalifa said. “He came with an affidavit signed by a lawyer that he doesn't want an autopsy to be done because he is a Muslim, but when you read that affidavit that he is absolving the police from any blame to us, that was made under duress. He was forced to do that because people are scared. Even if the parent doesn't want it, the human rights organizations will take [it] forward, as we are doing it now."
An investigation of the Sept. 11 events is underway, according to Dennis Oketch, spokesman of the Independent Police Oversight Authority.
"We have since deployed a rapid response team from our investigation directorate, who are on the ground following on that with the view of establishing what exactly happened in this case,” Oketch said. “If the police were justified in using the force that they used, and if there are any logical alternative means [they] would have used."
So far, seven people have been arrested in connection with the incident in Mombasa, including Hania Sagar, the widow of slain radical cleric Aboud Rogo.
Sagar is alleged to have been in frequent contact with one of the girls.
Three suspects are accused of failing to provide authorities with information that could have prevented the incident. They have denied the allegations.
Kenya has been a target of terror groups for its involvement in supporting the Somali government and fighting Islamic State inside Somalia.