Kasese- The army and police yesterday morning rounded up about 500 people in a cordon and search operation aimed at recovering guns that were stolen from police officers in the Basongora-Bamba tribal clashes that escalated over the weekend.
The arrests were made in Kidodo and Kikonzo cells, Railway ward in Kasese Municipality, in an operation led by the commanding officer of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Elephant Battalion, Maj Obwot Olwasio.
Residents of Kidodo and Kikonzo were not allowed to leave their homes until they were searched by the security operatives. “We rounded up about 500 people from whom we screened the key suspects that are now in the hands of the police,” Maj Obwot said.
Eye witnesses had alleged that the attackers, who killed police officer Jacob Muhindo and injured another at a weighbridge near Kasese Town, made off with two guns headed towards Kidodo and Kikonzo, some of the busy residential areas in Kasese Town. Kidodo area neighbours Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Maj Obwot said the reason the area was cordoned off was to find two AK47 guns that were taken by the assailants.
“We are doing this because the attackers who killed a police officer headed towards Kidodo areas. There was no other way than cordoning off the area early in the morning to make sure no one escapes our operation,” he explained.
The rounded up residents were held at Kidodo playground where they were screened by the army and police.
According to Maj Obwot, after the five hours of screening, 14 people suspected to be part of the group that has been attacking different parts of Kasese and Bundibugyo districts were arrested. They were taken to Kasese Central Police Station for custody.
He said police had taken over the investigations and detectives have been taking statements from the suspects.
According to Maj Obwot, several army uniforms and rounds of ammunition were recovered from the area during the operation. Addressing residents at Kidodo playground after the exercise, the army officer asked them to be vigilant and report to the authorities any suspected wrong elements.
He said the area has always been known for harbouring wrong people.
The general secretary for the Kidodo Local Council One executive, Mr David Ndyanabo Masereka, said it is not easy for the local leadership to identify the wrong elements because the area is very big and with different types of residents.
Meanwhile, business in Kisinga market, commonly known as Mawa market in Kasese Town, was brought to a standstill yesterday morning when traders abandoned their merchandise and ran for dear life.
They were caught unaware by the operation and did not know who it was targeting.
The vendors had on Thursday last week again abandoned the market as gunshots rocked the area. The 10am incident was sparked off by three men who were fighting to load bananas on a vehicle for money, police say.
A police officer attached to Kisanga Police Post who preferred not to be named because he is not allowed to speak for the media, said they decided to shoot in the air because people had flocked their office as they ran away from the fight.
He said women who ran away from the market crowded the police where they wanted to take refuge. This prompted the police to shoot in the air, thinking there was a motive to attack the post as it has happened across the region.