Kenyan police under investigation over deaths

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Kenya's largest newspaper printed shocking images yesterday of what appeared to be undercover police shooting three unarmed suspects at point-blank range on a busy Nairobi highway during midday, prompting a barrage of criticism.

Kenya's minister for internal security, George Saitoti, confirmed three people were killed in the incident. He said three police officers are under investigation and could face charges.

The photographs printed by the Daily Nation and taken by a passing motorist show two men lying face-down and an undercover police officer pointing a gun near them. A later photo shows two men with multiple bullet wounds to the head who appeared to be dead. A third killing also apparently took place.

The incident occurred on a well-travelled highway opposite a busy regional airport in Kenya's capital.

A minibus driver who said he witnessed the incident said he saw two police officers, one armed with a rifle and another with a pistol, order the three men out of a Toyota Sedan. The officers then made the suspects lie on the ground.

"Suddenly there was gunfire everywhere, and the passengers in my vehicle were screaming," said the driver, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. "Some were trying to jump through the window."

The British High Commission expressed "deep and serious concern" about the shootings and said it regretted that Kenyan government officials were able to act with impunity.

A group called the Release Political Prisoners Trust said the shooting indicates that police death squads "are now completely out of control".

"It is now clear to all that the Kenya police have abandoned all pretext of any reform and are now operating totally outside the law," the group said.

The headline above the Daily Nation photos read "Executed point-blank" and an editorial inside the paper said Kenya's police must not become criminals themselves.

The newspaper reported that a police commander at the scene told journalists the suspects had drawn weapons on the police and fired at them, though the photos appear to show a far different story. The driver who said he witnessed the incident said he also did not see the suspects shoot at police.

The paper also reported that after the killings, the police turned their guns on journalists at the scene and threatened to shoot them.