Two people were Wednesday evening allegedly shot dead by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers in Gatarakwa, Nyeri County following a confrontation over firewood.
Police reports say that two KFS rangers were also injured, one by a bullet, in the confrontation with local youth in the incident which has elicited protests.
According to authorities, KFS rangers on patrol intercepted two men suspected to have been illegally logging inside South Laikipia Forest in Kieni West at around 6pm. They were reported to have been preparing firewood from the trees they had cut down.
“Once apprehended, one of the suspects took off and the officers detained the other one,” Kieni West Sub-County Police Commander Ahmed Ali told the Nation.
The suspect who had escaped is reported to have returned with “reinforcements” of bodaboda riders from nearby Nairutia.
According to the police, the group of riders intended to rescue the detained suspect from custody.
“The rangers tried to contain the crowd and keep the suspect detained. They torched a motorcycle belonging to KFS. One of the rangers fired twice in the air to disperse the youth but they kept attacking so he opened fire on the crowd,” Mr Ali said.
Two of the youths, including the one who was in custody were shot in the confrontation. The logging suspect identified as Jackosn Muriuki died on the spot while a bodaboda rider, Isaac Mwangi, was pronounced dead on arrival at Bellevue Hospital.
INJURED IN FRIENDLY FIRE
A KFS ranger sustained a gunshot wound in the arm in suspected friendly fire while another was slightly injured after being attacked by the riders.
The Nation has also learnt that police are also investigating whether the shooting of the KFS officer was a case of friendly fire.
Police say that four spent cartridges were recovered from the scene and an AK-47 rifle with 12 rounds of ammunition withdrawn from KFS as exhibit.
“As of now, investigations have started and we have also recovered the burnt motorcycle and the firewood from the scene. We want to understand what exactly triggered the confrontation and that will guide the kind of arrests we make,” Mr Ali said.
KFS has said it will cooperate with the police in the investigation.
KFS Central Highlands Conservancy boss Samuel Ihure said that the forest agency will be conducting an internal probe, noting that the area has been affected by rampant logging.
“We are also concerned with the rampant logging that has been witnessed in that part of the conservancy. There are quite a number of court cases involving locals in that area and we will be preparing a report on that as well,” Mr Ihure said.
Bodies of the dead were taken to Nyeri County Referral Hospital mortuary for post-mortem.