MBALE: One police officer has been confirmed dead and three others seriously injured in a gunfire exchange with armed robbers at Nabumali trading centre in Nabumali Town Council in Mbale District, eastern Uganda.
Eye witnesses said the Thursday afternoon gunfire exchange ensued after officers attached to police’s Flying Squad Unit shot at the tyres of the car in which the suspected robbers were driving during a chase along Mbale – Lwakhakha road.
The yet to be identified thugs, who were travelling in a Toyota Mark 11- Reg No -UAP 283Y, reportedly stopped and fired at the police officers, indiscriminately. According to the locals, the shoot-out lasted for about 15 minutes.
The thugs, according to eyewitnesses, overpowered the police officers and took off abandoning their vehicle at Natodome village in Bubirabi Sub County, two kilometres from the scene of crime.
The Elgon Police Spokesperson, Mr Robert Tukei confirmed the incident and said one of the officers was killed in the shoot-out.
“The police officers engaged the robbers for about five minutes but it’s unfortunate that during the battle, one of our officers lost his life,” he said.
Mr Tukei only identified the deceased as Sgt/Detective Fred Chemongesi and the injured as Mukisa, Ikalati and Statalasi, all attached to Mbale Central Police station.
“The body of the deceased has been taken to the mortuary for postmortem while the injured are currently admitted at Mbale regional referral hospital,” he said.
According to Mr Tukei, the officers went after the robbers after they got information that they were trailing a businessman who was heading to Bududa District.
The police spokesperson, however, revealed that the army had been contacted for reinforcement and joint manhunt for the thugs commenced.
“We are searching for the thugs and we know we are going to get them,” he said before adding that one of the suspected robbers sustained severe injuries.
He also appealed to the locals to be on alert and report any suspicious person in the area.
One of the police officers, who preferred anonymity, told Daily Monitor that the thugs were armed with two sub-machineguns.
“Our guns ran out of bullets and we had nothing to do but retreat,” he said.
The source added that the commanders at the Mbale central police station also delayed to send reinforcement.
“Our commanders delayed to send more manpower at the scene. They were just calling us on phone instead of sending reinforcement,” he said.
Mr Robert Masangha, a resident and eye witness said after overpowering police, the thugs drove their vehicle and parked it for almost 30 minutes at Natodome village, trying to replace the deflated tyre but they failed and abandoned it there.
“We saw only four police officers in pursuit and reinforcement delayed to arrive. They would have caught them,” he said.
“If it was [former presidential candidate] Dr Kizza Besigye or [Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi] Bob Wine coming to Mbale town, they would have deployed heavily but now look, they left the thugs to go scot-free,” Ms Grace Namono, another resident said.
By press time, heads of security in Elgon region were in the emergency meeting to forge a way forward.