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Kenya police probe shooting of teen during virus curfew

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Kenyan security officers arrests a man selling alcohol door to door during curfew hours in Kisumu, western Kenya, on March 29, 2020. – The Kenyan government on March 27, 2020, imposed a night curfew, from 7 pm to 5 am, to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Brian ONGORO / AFP)

Kenyan police on Tuesday ordered a probe into the shooting of a 13-year-old boy on his balcony in Nairobi as officers allegedly opened fire to enforce a nighttime curfew.

Residents of the slum where the shooting took place told AFP that a confrontation broke out shortly before 7:00 pm on Monday as police started forcing people into their homes for the start of the curfew, imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“They (police) were violent, they started beating people and then we heard gunshots,” said Mercy Ngaira, a resident in the Mathare settlement.

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The boy was hit in the stomach and rushed to hospital where he died from his wounds, according to neighbours and police sources.

A police statement said that Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai had ordered a probe “into the death of a thirteen-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bullet.”

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) issued a statement condemning the incident and said it had launched an investigation.

“IPOA has launched investigations into the incident in which police enforcing the curfew allegedly shot a minor… The minor later succumbed to his injuries,” said the statement.

Kenya’s police force is often accused by rights groups of using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings, especially in poor neighbourhoods.

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In January Human Rights Watch said at least eight young men had been shot in three low-income neighbourhoods since Christmas, and a 2019 report detailed the killings of 21 young men and boys by police “apparently with no justification”.

The rights watchdog said the incidents “point to a broader pattern of police using excessive, unlawful force in the name of maintaining law and order in Nairobi’s informal settlements.”

Since the start of a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew on Friday police have also used tear gas and baton charges to disperse crowds.

In the port city of Mombasa on Friday, hundreds waiting for a ferry were engulfed in tear gas as police charged commuters even before the curfew began, causing panic and a stampede.

Officers, some armed and wearing riot gear, forced people to the ground and thrashed them with whips in scenes the Mombasa Law Society decried as “excessive” and “detestable”.

In Kisumu, western Kenya, police have used tear gas to force businesses in slum districts to close and clashed with shop owners.

Kenya has recorded 50 cases of coronavirus and one death.

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