Station fusillade shows terrorists back - Rohee
By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News news item. Thursday 1 May 2008
Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee says that the country’s lawmen had to take the fight to the criminals noting that the assault on the East La Penitence police station on Tuesday night shows that the armed gangs have resurfaced with a plan to create terror and instability.
The gates to the East La Penitence Police Station closed yesterday morning following last night’s strafing.
He said the nation’s security forces could not afford to be complacent at this time, urging the lawmen to go on the offensive and not the defensive. “It is clear that the criminals have resurfaced with a plan to send certain signals and we have to be more on the offensive,” Rohee said in an invited comment last evening. He told Stabroek News that it was clear that police stations are now targets for armed gangs and criminal elements. “Since that is so the police have to do more to protect life and property at all stations. A more offensive and aggressive posture has to be adopted because this is not the time to be complacent and defensive,” Rohee declared.
He noted that co-incidentally the attack on Tuesday night fits in with a plan advocated by some to create instability and discomfort in society, making reference to the PNCR’s stated plan to make the Caribbean Festival of Arts unmanageable if certain things did not change. “We will go all out to thwart the efforts whether politically or militarily combined or otherwise of those who have intentions to disrupt the peace and good order,” Rohee asserted. Asked whether the security at police stations were adequate for police ranks, Rohee acknowledged that more could be done and more should be done.
Commander of ‘A’ Division, Assistant Commissioner, Welton Trotz told Stabroek News that ranks were on duty at the station when gunfire rang out. He said the policemen took evasive action and at the same time alerted other ranks who responded, but by that time the gunmen had already disappeared. Trotz said that checks downstairs of the two-storey building revealed broken glass windows and warheads. According to the police officer the western and southern parts of the building were riddled with bullets. Trotz confirmed that investigators collected spent shells on the road as well as in the compound of the station. Asked about the motive of the criminals, Trotz said he had no idea, but assured that a thorough investigation was being conducted.
In a statement late last evening the police said that 23 7.62 x 39 spent shells were recovered from the scene. According to the police statement about 11:45 on Tuesday night armed men in a motor vehicle drove along Arapaima Street and discharged rounds at the East La Penitence Police Station, damaging three glass windows on the lower flat and the walls on the western and southern side of the upper flat of the building. No rank was injured in the attack. The statement said that ranks on duty said that the attack took place very quickly and by the time they had taken cover with a view to responding, the firing had stopped. They could not say by what means the attack had taken place and no information was immediately available in relation to the mode of the attack and the perpetrators, the police statement said. It added that several police patrols responded and after diligent enquiries they were able to ascertain some time later that the station was attacked by persons in a motor vehicle. “The informants had conflicting information on the type and colour of the vehicle,” the statement added.
Gunmen rained bullets on the police station located on Mandela Avenue, destroying several glass windows and leaving police ranks scampering for cover. Hours after the shooting the decapitated body of missing businessman Farouk Kalamadeen was discovered in Kingston – in the same ward as the Police HQ. The attack on the station appeared to be another case of diverting the police’s attention while, in this case, the dumping of the headless body occurred.
When Stabroek News visited the station yesterday morning, several police officers were there, but were unwilling to speak about the incident. A taxi driver told this newspaper that he was on Mandela Avenue in that area, when he heard rapid gunfire. The taxi driver, who asked not to be named, said he and several of his colleagues from the same service immediately came off the road. He said he was not certain where the gunfire was coming from and could not imagine it was an attack on the police station. A security guard at a building next door to the station said she was in the guard hut when she heard the gunshots and fearing for her life, she stayed in. “I ain’t going out there to see anything,” the guard commented.
She said when the shooting subsided and she went outside to have a look, she saw some police officers frantically looking around. Stabroek News could not ascertain whether the police had responded to the gunfire.
Over the years, gunmen have routinely targeted police stations on their way to committing atrocities, as happened in the January and February slaughters at Lusignan and Bartica. Gunmen operating out of Buxton have also targeted the Vigilance Police Station in the past. Back in January, in one of the most brazen attacks in recent history, gunmen blasted three policemen manning the western gate at the Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, hitting two in their legs and leaving the force scrambling to protect its base. Shortly afterwards, gunmen stormed Lusignan killing 11 people including five children.
Since then police have maintained a cordon around the Eve Leary headquarters and had also erected barriers on Brickdam.
Police had believed the attack was the work of the country’s most wanted man, Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins who was said to have upped the ante against the security forces following the alleged abduction of his girlfriend, Tenisha Morgan. A man purporting to be Rawlins had contacted Criminal Inves-tigation Department headquarters one day before the attack at Eve Leary warning officers there that if his girlfriend was not returned he would create mayhem.
Acting Commissioner of Police, Henry Greene, had said then that the carload of gunmen pulled up at the corner of Parade and Young streets, Eve Leary in front of the canon at the TSU base. He said the men stopped their vehicle and fired several shots, hitting two policemen, who were keeping the company of the sentry at the time. The gunmen’s assault also saw bullets drilling several holes in the wall of the fence. Greene said the gunmen escaped along Carifesta Avenue. Police had recovered several 5.56 rounds which are used in M-16 rifles.
The gunmen who murdered the 12 people in Bartica on February 17 had also used a similar tactic: attacking the police station there first. Using speedboats, around 20 gunmen stormed the township of Bartica, located some 80 miles from Georgetown on the night of February 17. They overran the police station and murdered three policemen and then nine civilians. The gunmen first attacked the station killing the three officers and seriously wounding two others. They then carted off several firearms and ammunition from two strong boxes. Days after the attack, Greene had told reporters that the policemen were not alert enough and as such, he encouraged his charges to be more vigilant.