Fifteen people have been arrested for stealing from pilgrims at Namugongo Catholic and Anglican Martyrs’ shrines. Security sources said 14 out of the 15 suspects were picked from the Catholic shrine.
Pilgrims had by Thursday evening reported 28 cases of mobile phone thefts and general theft majorly at the Catholic martyrs’ shrines where there is a huge number of pilgrims compared to the Anglican venue.
“The suspected thieves were arrested by plain-clothed security teams deployed by police and military. These were caught pretending to be pilgrims in queues yet they were picking items from the tired and exhausted Christians. Some of these were reported by the pilgrims themselves and the hunt was swiftly conducted leading to their arrest,” a security source said.
Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, confirmed that 28 cases had been recorded. He added that the numbers of suspects and cases of theft were likely to increase since pilgrims keep soaring every day.
Onyango said 13 of the 28 cases were of phone thefts, eleven are of general theft, one was of malicious damage, and one was of intoxication. “We always expect cases of wrong people coming to take advantage of such big numbers. We have now increased intelligence teams in and outside both venues. We warn those who have come with bad intentions to know we are ready for them,” Onyango said.
Namugongo has so far been visited by commanders of police and military intelligence, violent crimes units, counterterrorism units, and riot and operations units. The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj Gen Geoffrey Katsigazi Tumusiime, has assured pilgrims that their security is guaranteed.
Deployments have been increased at both the main and access routes in Namugongo and neighboring villages. Military and police officers are seen walking in opposite directions from Kireka, Naalya, Misindye, Sonde, Kira, and Bweyogerere.
Military and police patrol vehicles have been deployed at strategic points while others are patrolling major and access routes. All major and temporary entrance and exit points at Namugongo catholic shrines have been opened.
In order to avoid the occurrences of last year where pilgrims fought while collecting water after the Martyrs’ Day mass, Christians arriving at both venues are quickly being guided to the taps where they are collecting and keeping it in their jerrycans.
Last year, it almost turned into a stampede and the military had to take control of the situation. Batoons and gun butts were used to control pilgrims who almost pushed each other into the Martyrs’ Lake.