Comoros: Six Kenya Policemen Detained
SIX Kenyan policemen have for been detained for the last week in the Comoros after the islands' customs department bonded a ship wanted for evading tax.
There has been no official explanation as to why the six officers were deployed to provide "escort services" to the oil exploration ship, MV Squirrel, belonging to Marine Contractors.
The ship stalled in the deep seas after running out of fuel and was then forcibly boarded on February 15 by the Comoran coast guard after the captain refused them to board. The ship was towed ashore where it is being held by the Comoros authorities. The captain has since been charged in court.nPolice corporal Robert Ng'etich and five constables, whose identities are yet to be established, are attached to the Coast provincial police headquarters.
Senior police officials including Commissioner Mathew Iteere on Wednesday held a meeting in Mombasa to discuss the matter. Coast provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli said arrangements were being made to seek the officers' release. Adoli said the company had hired the six "on normal escort duties". "They were aboard the exploration ship and are being detained by Comoros island authorities because of customs duty the ship owners owe. They were on normal ship escort because of piracy. We have been informed that the ship was being looked for by the Comoran customs. The latest information is that the shipowners have paid the duty and it is now in the process of being released," Adoli told the Star by phone.
The ship left Mombasa two weeks ago transporting oil exploration equipment. Calls made to the offices of Kenya Marine Contractors in Mombasa yesterday were answered but then kept on hold interminably before being disconnected. Adoli said police were regularly deployed to provide escort services to shipowners who paid for the service. He said another team had been deployed yesterday but declined to identify the vessel "for security reasons". "The ship was hired by the Kenya Institute of Marine Services," was all Adoli could reveal. "The Commissioner of Police is aware of the whole issue. We have been informed that the company has already paid the levy which had been outstanding since last year. The company was fined heavily and they are now heading back to Kenya," Adoli said.
He dismissed the incident as "a slight misunderstanding" and was confident that the policemen would arrive home soon. Relatives and families of the six policemen have expressed concern over their detention and appealed to the government to intervene. Shipowners pay the police hundreds of thousands of shillings for escort services depending on the number of days the officers remain on board the vessel.
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