What you need to know:
- UPDF accounts show that 251 of the rustlers that reportedly operate like bandits were put out of action in 2021 alone. The army has since captured over 1,600 rustlers with about 15,000 livestock and 160 guns recovered.
A translator who had been hired to help interpret the local dialect for three geologists who were attacked and killed alongside their two UPDF escorts on Monday is in army custody.
Mr Sam Lote who survived the attack with a bullet wound on the stomach was picked up Thursday afternoon by the police “for his own safety” after doctors successfully managed to extract a bullet that was reportedly stuck in his abdomen.
Mr Lote told security operatives on Monday that he managed to escape after sensing danger from the armed warriors in Lokisilei village, Lotisan Sub County where they were attacked as he escorted the geologists from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to pick soil samples.
Charles Olweny, Richard Kigwe and Edina Musiime were shot dead at 1pm on Monday while on a mission to collect soil samples for mineral mapping. Their two army escorts were also killed in the attack.
Mr Micheal Longole, the Karamoja regional police spokesperson said Mr Lote was picked for from hospital for his own safety.
He said the police then handed him over to the UPDF for better security.
"He has a lot of information and he knows the people who shot the geologists so he will help the security with the information details,” Mr Longole said.
According to police, it was also risky for Lote to be in the regional referral hospital as the suspected assailants or their accomplices could easily access him and jeopardize investigations by killing him in attempt to destroy evidence.
"Lote knows these killers and these killers know that Lote didn’t die so, we are sure they hunting for him. In case they hear that he's in the hospital, they will come and kill him," he said.
In a related development, hundreds of Turkana pastoralists who have been grazing their livestock in Rupa and Lotisan sub-counties in Moroto district are running away back to their country, Kenya, fearing they could be victims of a planned raid by joint security forces.
Currently, UPDF and Police Anti-Stock Theft Unit personnel have been heavily deployed to hunt down a group of armed rustlers believed to be Turkana and Karimojong who killed the three geologists.
After killing them, the rustlers removed military uniforms from the dead soldiers and two guns which include one support weapon known as PK.
On Wednesday, after seeing unusual deployment of heavily armed UPDF and ASTU Police in Kobebe grazing area where the Turkana and Karimojong graze, the pastoralists started fleeing back fearing they could be targeted.
Mathew Lokuruka, one of the Turkana pastoralist said their innocence may not help.
"We are not sure what is going to happen this night with all the soldiers deployed here, it's better for us to move back to Kenya even if it's dry," he said.
While adressing the media on Tuesday, Brig. Joseph Balikudembe, the 3rd division commander, warned that Karimojong and Turkana pastoralists have provoked the security which will now go for them.
The UPDF land forces commander, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba on Wednesday signaled an end to diplomatic means in halting resurgent deadly attacks largely blamed armed cattle rustlers in the troubled Karamoja Sub-region.
“My Karimojong brothers! We have begged you to stop the life of robbery and violence. We have begged you to stop attacking your neighbours but to no avail! You have refused all our appeals! Well, now we are coming and hell is coming with us!” Lt Gen Kainerugaba tweeted before adding hours later “Karimojong criminals killed my soldiers in cold blood! There will be hell to pay for that!! If they want to avoid retribution they better get in touch with our RDCs and commanders in the region NOW!! Otherwise, let us see who the real men are!”
UPDF accounts show that 251 of the rustlers that reportedly operate like bandits were put out of action in 2021 alone. The army has since captured over 1,600 rustlers with about 15,000 livestock and 160 guns recovered.
To the concern of local leaders, insecurity in the Karamoja region has escalated, disrupting relative peace restored in 2008 after a five-year disarmament enforced by government.