Al Shabaab Scare Causes Stampede At Athi River Epz, 20,000 Evacuated

Workers at the Export Processing Zone in Athi River. Photo/KURGAT MARINDANY

the-star

 

There was a stampede at the EPZ in Athi River when a man suspected to be a member of al Shabaab was spotted in a factory on Saturday morning.

More than 3,000 New Wide Garments machine operators stormed out when they saw a man in a marvin and dirty clothes at the garments finishing unit.

A senior manager who sought anonymity said there had been reports on Monday that the Somalia-based terror group had planned attacks in the area.

“We had information they would strike the EPZ and a night club in Kitengela town. Our fears were confirmed when our staff found a stranger in our garments factory,” the manager said.

The source said employees reported seeing four people, some in masks.

Officers from the Anti-Terror Police Unit and Athi River police station combed the area in an operation that saw more than 20,000 workers evacuated, and a suspect arrested.

“It is true; police have arrested a suspect and all the factories in the EPZ have been shut down to allow further investigations. We are not taking chances,” said deputy county commissioner Kodhek Makori.

Makori told the Star the police responded immediately after being alerted by the EPZ’s managers.

He maintained that only one suspect was in police custody, officers saying they did not find others after sweeping through all factories and godowns.

The workers attempted to grab the suspect, said to have lacked identification documents, as the police led him away.

“We have laws in Kenya. We cannot allow you to kill him,” an officer told the workers, who said they wanted to lynch the suspect.

Managers said all the factories, in the country’s largest export processing zone, will remain closed until authorities confirm it is safe.

They questioned how the suspect accessed the area, which has a police station and private security officers, saying all workers and visitors are frisked before entry.

The EPZ also has a security department headed by former police officers.

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