Dar es Salaam. The man who was behind the deadly shootings in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday was born and raised as a good boy in the city’s Upanga suburb, his neighbours said yesterday.
On Wednesday at the junction of Kenyatta Drive and Kinondoni Road, Hamza Mohammed abruptly ended the lives of four people before he was shot dead, an attack that was well captured by people near the area.
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Police reported the death of five people: three police officers, a security guard and the gunman himself. Six other people were injured in the wild shooting between the police and the gunman. Police have since taken members of Mohammed’s family for interrogations in connection with the incident.
However, neighbours say Mohammed was a good mosque goer and a person who would not pass without greeting them.
“He always travelled by motorbike but would stop and greet us each and every time that he passed,” said Ms Khadija Ramadhan, a food vendor close to the gate of the two-storey apartment where Hamza lived with her mother and other family members.
She said Mohammed led a private life and would only be seen when going out or returning from his tasks.
A trader who runs her shop a few metres from where Mohamed’s family live said Mohammed was a quiet man who would greet him, have a few pleasantries with him, before buying bread and going back to his house.
“I never saw or heard of him quarrelling with anyone for the entire time that I had known him. At no point did he show signs of violence and that was why I was surprised to see him wielding guns when I downloaded a video of him on my phone,” he said, requesting not to be named.
A taxi driver, Yusuph Kipendi said he normally saw Mohammed riding his motorbike and that he would always stop to greet people before continuing with his journey.
“On the day of the incident, I was driving along the roads of the neighbourhood around 9.00 am when I met him on his bike. He stopped to greet me and informed me he was on his way to town. Little did I know that a few hours later, I would see him on social media in that horrendous situation,” he said.
He stressed that he did not expect to see a boy he saw growing up, in a rage that drove him to kill security personnel before his life was also taken.
A casual worker, Hussein Juma said he knew the deceased as a quiet and humble man who would go to the mosque time and again.
According to him, the deceased would call him to do some menial work including washing clothes and sweeping the compound among others.
He said, during all that time he never saw him being violent but noted that when he went to Egypt for further studies he came back a changed man more secluded and would not speak to anyone other than greetings.
Omary Waziri Issa, a taxi driver who parks his vehicle close to the shooter’s residence, said he knew the person right from his days as a small boy. He said he recently saw him on his motorbike.
He said he knew him to be a normal person who had nothing strange.
“I know he is one of the four children in their family and that their father died some years ago. The four kids inherited their father’s businesses, including a gold mining business at Chunya in Mbeya Region and, since that time, they have been coming to see their mother and leave for their respective workplaces,” said Issa.
The house they live in is not theirs but a rented premise. He said the young man was born right at Upanga and had been brought up there.
Chunya’s gold miner
Residents of Kitete village, Makongolosi, Chunya in Mbeya describe Mohammed as a down-to-earth individual who had never been involved in any conflict with any other person.
“He was with us in every development undertaking. Despite owning some gold mines here, he was always together with us whenever there was a development project to be undertaken,” said Ms Sophia Ally.
The villagers say Hamza Mohammed’s parents had lived with them in the area for almost four decades.
Kitete Village chairman, Eric Mwashiuya said he personally came to know Mohammed after the death of father several years ago when he (Hamza Mohammed) and his relatives came to supervise mining activities.
“I cannot remember if he was, at any point, involved in any form of conflict throughout the time that we lived together. I could not believe my eyes when I heard what had happened in Dar es Salaam.
Back in Dar es Salaam, a neighbour, James Lubuva said he knew the deceased from when he was still a small boy going to school in one of Upanga primary schools which he failed to know the name.
“He lived here up until he grew up and inherited his father’s mineral business in Chunya Mbeya, and only came back here shortly, but this time he came because his mother is sick, and we heard the sad news through social media,” he said.
Police could not comment on the matter yesterday but commissioner of operations and training Liberatus Sabas said they would pay last respects to bodies of three officers, who were killed, today (Friday).
Meanwhile, security analysts yesterday commended the police force for the way it handled Wednesday’s incident on Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road near the French Embassy.
Those who spoke to The Citizen said yesterday that, given the fact that he showed no signs to surrender, there was no other way the police could do than shoot the assailant dead.
On why police continued shooting even after the gunman was down, a security analyst based in Iringa Martin Elia said there could’ve been a possibility that he had explosives, it was unknown by then, so they had to deter him.
If it were a hostage situation, he explained, it would have been a different case.
The police, expounded Mr Elia, would have ensured the hostage was safe from harm as they took down the gunman.
“If we (Tanzania) had advanced equipment such as robots to survey the situation, we would have neutralised the threat without the need to spray more bullets,” noted Mr Elia.
He played down some claims that police delayed reaching the scene, saying that the incident had surprise elements.
“No one expected it to happen and by the time it was happening it was a traffic jam peak hours, so as it is, some delays were inevitable,” said Mr Elia.
His sentiments were echoed by cyber security specialist Benito Frank.
“I understand the way it happened raised a number of questions regarding the whole security spectrum, but we need to understand the incident was a complete surprise and it could not have been predicted or prepared for,” said Mr Frank.
However, he said, vigilance (especially to those askari on guard duty) could have been a primary guard to fend off such surprise attacks from anyone with a bad intent.
But some experts say embassy security didn’t act because the attack was outside, and not a direct threat to the ambassador.
“To be honest it’s a very terrifying situation to anyone whether witnessing it from afar or right beforehand,” noted Mr Frank.
“It is one of those situations you don’t wish to happen to anyone including your sworn enemy.”
On police emergency numbers, experts said numbers are there, but it is the nature of Tanzanians to undermine things they don’t consider important until something like this happens.
Noting that Dar es Salaam is safe, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Amos Makalla said the police did a good job by shooting the gunman down because he would cause more harm.
“Yesterday’s incident was controlled and I want to congratulate the Tanzania Police Force for a good job, if he killed four people and injured others, he could have harmed many people,” noted Mr Makalla, who doubles as the Chairman of the Regional Defense and Security Committee.
Reported by Alex Malanga, Rosemary Mirondo, Gadiosa Lamtey, Julius Maricha and Catherine Mbaga in Dar es Salaam and Mary Mwaisenya in Chunya