Police accused of brutality as search for abducted Italian girl intensifies

SilviaThe abducted Italian Girl Sylvia Romano

Over 100 people have been arrested by security personnel in connection to the abduction of Italian aid worker Sylvia Constanza Romano.

Residents have accused the police of brutality in their operation.

Hundreds of police and military officers descended on Chira and Bilisa villages in Garsen constituency in search of Ms Sylvia. Until last week, police believed Ms Sylvia was being held in Assa village in Garsen, near Boni Forest. The aid worker was abducted from an orphanage in Chakama village in Kilifi on November 20.

On Monday, residents said they no longer trust security heads in Tana Delta after what officers put them through over the weekend.

“Even a former chief of this area is in police custody and we don’t know the motive. Without proper coordination and cooperation with police then the operation may fail. Attacking our village just because a woman was abducted in Chakama in Kilifi is not right,” said Hussein Santur, a Chara elder.

Santur claimed police officers roughed up anybody on sight, including women, children and the elderly.

“It is like they don’t want (Sylvia) to be saved from her abductors and we have been feeding police with information only for them to turn against us and take all of us in custody,” he said.

He added that women and the elderly were released on Sunday afternoon but with strict instructions to appear at the region’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) offices today.

Women said they were forced to abandon their babies as they were being taken into custody.

“Security officers came and asked many questions. (They asked) if we had seen visitors around and we told them we haven’t seen anyone,”said Fatma Ali.

Ms Fatma said they were pulled out of their houses and forced to board police vehicles. They were taken to Minjila Police Station,while men were taken to Gamba, she added.

Coast Regional Police Commander Noah Mwivanda denied reports that 100 people were arrested at Chara on Saturday. He however confirmed arrests at Sera.

Mwivanda said those arrested were in the hands of anti-terror officers.

“The information is very sensitive and cannot be divulged in full because we are working round the clock to save the girl,” he said.

Initially, the Government came up with several theories for the abduction, including robbery. It however ruled out terrorism. But authorities in Tana River and Kilifi counties later claimed the abductors were trying to sneak her into Somalia.

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