A joint security force was last night combing neighbourhoods in and outside Luweero town following an afternoon attack at a traffic checkpoint in which a police officer was killed and another injured by a machete-wielding gang.
In Kampala, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth-Ochola, according to a statement issued by police spokesperson Fred Enanga, vowed that law enforcement will apprehend masterminds of the “violent attack”.
“At this stage, the motivation of the violent attack and murder is not yet established, although it appears they targeted guns for robbery,” he noted, adding, “ The tragic incident is a stark reminder of the hazards police officers face in their efforts to protect the public and keep citizens safe.”
Back in Luweero, Mr Ignatius Otong, the Savannah region police commander, said Police Constable Ronald Busingye, who suffered multiple cuts to the head and face, died shortly upon arrival at Luweero Hospital.
The injured has been named as Josephat Twinamasiko, and police transferred him from Luweero Hospital to Kampala for specialised management.
Multiple police sources and witnesses said the attackers slashed the pair with machetes at a busy highway traffic checkpoint outside Luweero town, roughly 60 kilometres north of Kampala. Both victims belonged to Police’s Field Force Unit (FFU), and had recently been transferred to Luweero, multiple sources said.
“We have lost one police officer and the other is fighting for his life at the Hospital. The attackers robbed two police guns and are on the run. The incident happened at 1pm (yesterday),” said Mr Otong.
Security forces and residents said the 1pm attack in Kiwumpa Village, four kilometres from Luwero Town, on the drive to Kampala, took them by surprise and that it appeared to fit in a continuing and increasingly brazen attacks.
On July 8, unknown gunmen shot dead then acting Bukwo chief administrative officer Charles Ogwal, and set alight his official vehicle in the 11:30pm ambush.
In yesterday’s attack, which happened on the busy highway at 1pm, the assailants also torched a semi-trailer at the checkpoint, pointing to apparent similarity in the crime execution.
In an audio that surfaced after the raid, a police officer, said the parked car was loaded with maize and they guarded it overnight until yesterday morning when the day-time officers took charge.
“Twinamatsiko has survived … they (attackers) were timing his head, but he tried to bend and dodged the panga. It cut him in the back … he will be okay… Busingye has died … all two guns have been taken,” the officer narrated, quoting witnesses’ accounts.
The attackers suddenly emerged from both sides of the road, in is a swampy stretch, and pounced on the unsuspecting FFU duo deployed to guard unarmed traffic officers.
“They attacked at once; so, no one could rescue the other … let’s pray hard that let God intervene in the situation,” the officer said.
In another audio, a seemingly out of breath police constable who identified herself as Caroline Nzekanabwa of Kiwumpa traffic, in a recorded notification to the area district police commander, noted that: “We are attacked by people in civilian attire with pangas, they have killed one policeman at the checkpoint, we need rescue, guns are being taken, me I am communicating from the bush, I removed the uniforms and left it on the roadside.”
These narrative was corroborated by a separate account offered by one Abusafu Kawuma, a farmer near the scene who, without naming the individual, said he helped a fleeing female traffic officer to escape to safety.
“I was digging in my garden that is about 200 metres away from the police checkpoint when one of the female police officers came running to me. She had pulled off the police uniform and asked me to help her with the T-shirt that I was putting on. I quickly helped her with the T-shirt before she disappeared,” he said.
According to Mr Kawuma, the assailants took charge of the checkpoint and temporarily manned it for about 5 minutes before disappearing into the nearby bush. The identities, numbers and motive of the attackers remain unknown. There have been a number of attacks, mainly at night on the Kampala-Gulu highway stretch between Bombo and Luweero.
Victims have previously said the gunmen wear attire similar to military uniforms, although their identities remain a mystery.
Mr Moses Ssemander, a boda boda rider, speaking about yesterday’s incident, claimed he witnessed a scuffle between the police officers and the machete-wielding thugs, and fled in fear.
“I saw one of the police officers lying in a pool of blood and another being wrestled by two people. I quickly jumped on my motorcycle and continued to the nearby trading centre at Naluvule Village,” he said.
Residents worry that the assailants could return to attack them with the grabbed police guns, said Ms Rebecca Nassiwa, the female Sub-county councilor for Piida parish.
Police allayed such fears, with IGP Okoth-Ochola noting “we want to assure the public that we have reinforced our teams in Luweero to help identify and apprehend the suspects involved in the brutal attack”.
There was variation in accounts about the time of the attack and their whereabouts. Whereas officers on the ground said the ambush occurred at 1pm, the IGP in his statement noted midday and while the narrative from Luweero was that the individuals escaped into the swamp, police in Kampala said they made their way into a waiting get-away car at Kiwumpa Church of Uganda primary school and sped away.
The IGP condemned the “senseless act of violent attack against police officers”.