It has been a second major post-dusk robbery in less than five months. It was also different from previous major bank heists in the country as this time around the bandits had targeted the police and their weapons.
CRDB Microfinance Bank, Mbande Branch, in Temeke Municipality, Dar es Salaam Region, had just closed for business less than 30 minutes back when disaster struck, according to residents and local leaders.
Four on-duty policemen were killed while two civilians sustained injuries when well-equipped armed robbers surrounded the microfinance facility and started firing shots at a police van that had just arrived at the bank.
The Commissioner of Operations and Training of the Police Force, Mr Nsato Mssanzya, confirmed the incident that occurred at around 7:00pm at Mbagala-Mbande area. some 40 metres from the Mbande police post.
He named the deceased as Corporal Yahaya E.5761, Corporal Hatibu F.4660, Police Constable Tito G.9524 and Police Constable Gaston G.9996.
“The civilians, Mr Ally Chiponda and Mr Azizi Yahaya, were injured on the leg and arm respectively,” the commissioner of police told reporters.
Mr Chiponda was rushed to Temeke District Hospital where he was admitted, while Mr Yahaya, who was discharged after receiving medical treatment, is recuperating at his Mtongani residence in the municipality.
Eyewitnesses said the bandits arrived at the scene a few minutes before the change of guard at the bank.
“Shortly after the police car arrived with on-duty cops, a suspected bandit who had been eating chips at a nearby chips joint fired shots at the vehicle.
Two other gunmen who were on either side also went on opening fire at the vehicle,” a witness said.
Mr Abdullah Salum, who runs a restaurant adjacent to the building that houses the bank, told the ‘Daily News’ that one of his workers was shot in the arm while out preparing the fries for evening customers,” he narrated.
According to Mr Salum, the bandits maintained the shoot-out for nearly seven minutes before disappearing.
“There were countless gunshots. We were all stunned it all,” a businesswoman, Ms Salma Msuya, added.
Home Affairs Minister, Mr Mwigulu Nchemba, who toured the scene on Tuesday night, wrote in his Facebook page; “We will not end up just cursing.
I urge all those responsible to surrender to the police.” He called on the general public to cooperate with the police force in the war against bandits.
The Police Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit arrived early in the morning yesterday where, among other things, interviewed bank officers and neighbours.
According to the police, the bandits did not target the bank as they escaped without breaking in.
They took away two Sub-Machine Guns (SMG) and 60 rounds of ammunition belonging to the police force.
Observers and security experts described the police killing ‘as indeed disgusting’ urging thorough investigations into the matter, including taking precautions on terror-related threats.
Mbande, a neighbourhood bordering Dar es Salaam and Coast Region, had no full-time operating police station, a glaring omission given its growing population and trade.
Magengeni Street Chairperson, Mr Sadick Makanwa, told reporters that the armed robbers had two unlicensed motorcycles, which they had parked near the police post prior to the attack on Tuesday evening.
Outlining immediate measures to be taken, the Temeke District Commissioner (DC), Mr Felix Jackson, said the district will immediately start construction of permanent police station in the area.
He said residents had so far contributed 45,000 bricks, 33,000 bags of cement while the District Executive Director’s office had issued roofing materials for the planned station.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Chairperson, Ambassador Adadi Rajabu, said the Bunge committee will hold a meeting this week with the Ministry of Home Affairs and that of Defence and National Service to deliberate on the matter.