A fortnight ago, a CCTV camera video captured from one of the leafy parts of Kampala, depicted the works of one of the most lethal organised criminal gangs currently operating in Uganda’s city but targeting foreigners for their cash and other valuables.
In the video captured along Prince Charles Drive in Kololo,Dawit Kasa, a diplomat with the Ethiopian Embassy had been targeted by a gang that was traveling on boda bodas whose members sandwiched and intercepted him as he walked on the road.
Whereas the diplomat sought refugee from nearby boda bodas who he thought could help, these also pounced on him and eventually his bag that contained shs2.8 million, laptop and phones were stolen before the gang members jumped on their boda bodas and vanished in thin air.
Over seven months ago in July last year, in a similar fashion, a gang of more than 10 people riding on boda bodas attacked Jiwan Lal, an accountant working with Rigil Agro Peck Limited in Kololo.
In an incident that happened along Mawanda road and captured on CCTV cameras, Jiwan who was riding a motorcycle was beaten an in the resultant melee, he was robbed of shs5 million and two mobile phones.
The two incidents are just a tip on the iceberg of a big and lethal criminal gang whose job is targeting mostly foreigners for their cash and other valuables.
The gang has also orchestrated many such moves alongside William and Wilson streets in the middle of the city where they rob victims, most of who businessmen moving to bank money or have just got it from forex bureaus.
According to a source with knowledge about the workings of the gang, it comprises of members whose main base is found in Kisenyi.
“They gather in Kisenyi near Link bus terminal, many of whom are street boys whereas others come from other criminal gangs from neighbouring areas like Katwe and Makindye,” the source says.
In the manner they operate, each of the gang members is specialized and they are deployed according to their specialty.
For example, there are those who are good at boxing whereas others are good at kickboxing and therefore, their respective roles during missions are given according to this specialty.
The gang according to the source, targets mostly foreigners including Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, Chinese and Indians for their cash and valuables.
“The gang is always alert and if they see any of those groups of people, they trail them. They read patterns that most times these people go down town to exchange money at forex bureaus or the Chinese and Indians have shops and if they see them, chances are high they have cash on them.”
The gang mastered its game so well that they know the days and time when some of these groups of foreigners including Chinese and Indians move to bank their money and it is when they strike when least expected.
The gang first send a team that carries out surveillance on their target before they strike.
“They come as a group disguised as boda boda riders but as others stay behind, one goes to surveil the target,” the source says.
For example, in once incident, an Indian withdrew money from Diamond Trust Bank along Kampala road, opposite Charm Tower but the gang trailed him.
In fact, one of the gang members staged on the opposite side of the road at Cham Tower as he surveilled the India.
When the money was withdrawn, he signaled to his fellow gang members who then trailed the victim up to Johnson street near London chambers where the motorcycle was knocked and in a split of a second, the man had been robbed of over shs300 million.
“If you are walking on foot, they surround you and if you are moving on a motorcycle, they knock it intentionally and in a split of a second, they have surrounded you. This doesn’t take more than five minutes,” the source says.
Many victims of this criminal gang have also confessed to this.
Whereas they come in a group of more than 15 members riding on boa bodas with titled number plates, as some hit the victim with punches and kicks, one is specifically targeting money and other valuables as others are watching the surroundings.
According to confessions from a number of the gang members arrested by security, during missions, the most powerful member of the gang is the commander.
His job is picking the bag containing money from their victim as the other gang members focus on beating and kicking him.
There are also other members who are on standby to confront any other person who comes to rescue their victim.
The gang has over the years grown and recruited new members into the ranks.
Whereas on several occasions’ security has arrested most of the gang members, many of them are remanded but released shortly on bail.
Also, in most cases, the cases against the gang members collapse because of lack of evidence pinning them.
“They don’t move with any weapons like knives because they fear being charged with capital offences like aggravated robbery and murder. They only use their hands and feet as weapons for boxing and kicking victims,” the source says.
This way, they are charged with rather minor offences of simple robberies or assault and are constantly released easily from custody.
“They are very careful to avoid capital offences because for these can lead them to long term jail sentences.”
The source also says that in other cases, victims don’t follow up to testify in cases against gang members.
“In one case, an Indian was robbed of shs600 million and suspects arrested later. The money was also recovered. However, the Indian refused to record a statement over the robbery after recovering his money and consequently, the case collapsed.”
Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga earlier this week said the gang operates around Wilson and Wiliam streets in the city centre, Kololo, Kawempe, Kireka, Kisenyi, Industrial Area, Kabalagala, Namirembe road and as far as Jinja city where CCTV cameras had captured them.
He noted that an operation carried out by the Police Flying Squad has led to the arrest of 13 gang members, including the ring leaders.
“A total of 13 gang members including Abdulrahman Bakata alias Pancho and Gordon Ssegirinya have been arrested by the Flying Squad who have intensified their operations targeting the gang. Since their arrest, there hasn’t been any attacks and robberies,”Enanga said.
“We have arrested Pancho several times and has been benefitting from the non-stringent bail terms.”
The police spokesperson said at least seven motorcycles used during these attacks and robberies have been blacklisted by police.
“We have seven motorcycles identified and blacklisted. We are working very hard to ensure we impound them for being used in these attacks. We are also continuing to trace for all suspects believed to have participated in these attacks.”
He insisted that the Crime Intelligence Directorate will continue the hunt for the gang members.
The police spokesperson however asked members of the public to always come to the help of victims in case of these attacks.
“A number of footages where people have been attacked, if you observe the circumstances, there are other members of the public including bystanders, motorists and other people on boda bodas who don’t assist victims. We urge the public to be more courageous when we witnesses some of these attacks and come to the help of victims,”Enanga urged.