Dar es Salaam. The Police Force said yesterday that the killing of four officers by gunmen at a bank on Tuesday evening was a declaration of war on police.
Commissioner of Training and Operations Nsato Mssanzya told reporters that the 7pm ambush by unidentified attackers at CRDB Bank’s Mbande branch on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam was not a robbery but an act of vengeance.
“This is vengeance fuelled by well-calculated propaganda spread through internal political meetings and on social media that is aimed at poisoning relations between the public and the Police Force. It is a declaration of war.
“It is clear their target was the police officers, and not the bank. They did not rob the bank of any money.”
Mr Mssanzya said the ambush was not linked to a string of attacks on police stations in various parts of the country on the last two years in which several officers were killed and firearms stolen.
He vowed that police would not relent until the perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice.
However, independent analysts cautioned the Police Force against jumping to conclusions.
Mr Richard Mbunda, a political scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam, said the fact that Tuesday’s attack was not the first incident of its kind and should have prompted police to be more cautious with their statement.
“I think it is too early for police to make any conclusions. Why the rush to apportion blame? In the current political climate, it is easy for people to know which group is being targeted. Thorough investigations should be carried out to identify the real culprits,” Mr Mbunda said.
Dr Joseph Matumaini, an expert in mass communication, also said exhaustive investigations should be conducted before conclusions could be made about Tuesday’s incident.
“We still do not have evidence to prove that it was an act of revenge, terrorism or a normal robbery. I regard police’s statement as a hypothesis that needs to be tested further,” Dr Matumaini noted.
The coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, said deadly attacks had been carried out against police previously, adding that it was reckless for the Police Force to conclude that it was an act of vengeance.
“Police stations have been attacked before and police officers killed and firearms stolen. Police should investigate the incident without violating the right of other groups to assemble and hold meetings,” he noted.
The commissioner named the officers killed in the ambush as Corporal Yahya, Corporal Hatib, Constable Tito and Constable Gastone. The gunmen also wounded two residents identified as Ali Chiponda and Aziz Yahya.
He cautioned people against posting inflammatory statements on the social media aimed at creating enmity between police and the public.