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Three killed in case of mistaken identity amid rising child trafficking in Butere

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According to locals, parents have, in recent months, been forced to accompany their children to school over fears of trafficking following the disappearance of children in strange circumstances.

In a confirmed case of mistaken identity, three persons were killed by a mob on suspicion of engaging in child trafficking in Lunza Sub-location, Butere Sub-county, last Friday.

According to Butere Sub-county Police Commander Julius Kipkorir, the three were in a group travelling to Uganda when their driver mistakenly entered a village where cases of child trafficking have reportedly been on the rise, triggering the attack.

"The case is that of mistaken identity. The suspects were victims. The matter is still under investigation," the police commander told The Eastleigh Voice on Tuesday.

A preliminary report filed at the Butere Police Station at around 6.30 pm on Friday says that a white Toyota Noah vehicle with eight occupants was cornered by members of the public who immediately accused the occupants of the attempted kidnapping of two pupils of Mulwa Primary School.

Inside the car were seven Somali nationals and a Kenyan man named Stephen Ochung, who was their driver. The villagers mistook them for possible kidnappers and pounced on them using crude weapons, leaving them seriously wounded and causing their deaths.

"Police visited the scene and found nine suspects having been subjected to mob injustice. It was established that one of the suspects, who is a resident of Ibokolo Sub-county, was called by the said driver after he was cornered by the irate members of the public. Two of the suspects succumbed to injuries; among them is the driver of the said vehicle," the report said.

The bodies of the two were taken to Butere Funeral Home ahead of identification and post-mortems.

Hebert Okumoli, 38, another victim and a local, succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment at St Mary's Hospital in Mumias. His body was taken to the facility's mortuary.

The other victims, who sustained machete cuts, were rescued and taken to Butere Sub-county Hospital in critical condition.

One of them, Yusuf Abdulrahman, told Citizen TV that they were travelling to Kampala to conduct DNA tests as part of their preparations to travel abroad.

"They beat us with machetes, big sticks, sharp knives, and stones. When the police arrived they were asked to stop but they kept fighting and throwing stones at us," Yusuf said from his hospital bed.

According to locals, parents have, in recent months, been forced to accompany their children to school over fears of trafficking following the disappearance of children in strange circumstances.

As had been the norm, the mother of the two children told Citizen TV on Friday that she escorted them out of the house as she does every morning.

"However, upon getting to the gate, they turned, came back running to the house, locked the door and told me that they had seen the car that steals children on the road," she recalled.

She informed neighbours who raised the alarm, triggering the mob attack and the torching of the vehicle.

The police initially believed the narrative by the locals and confirmed a rise in reported child trafficking cases but have since established that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Two identity cards were recovered, one for the driver and the other for a Somali woman named Amal Warsame Yusuf. Also collected at the scene was a Uganda-issued COMESA driving license belonging to Osob Ali Mohamed, a Somali national.

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