POLICE have arrested five people and recovered 12 herds of cattle in the latest orgy of terror in Kalabo district of Western Province following the death of two people shot dead by cattle raiders.
Hundreds of villagers are this week reported to have abandoned their fields and fled from the farming area in Libonda ward of Liuwa constituency for fear of being killed as criminal activities have heightened in the area.
Western Province commissioner of police Charles Lungu told the Daily Nation yesterday that police have arrested five suspects in connection with the latest cattle raid on Tuesday night in which 12 head of cattle were stolen by a gun-totting gang.
Mr. Lungu said the five are suspected to be among those who attacked Linu village in the same area on Tuesday night, adding that the police were still investigating the matter.
“We have arrested five people in connection with the theft of cattle and 12 herds of cattle were recovered from them. I cannot give more details because we are still investigating the matter,” Mr. Lungu said.
But sources on the ground explained that on Tuesday night, six armed men attacked Linu village near Libonda royal village while firing in the air to scare away owners of the cattle.
The criminals overpowered one of the herdsmen and tied him with ropes before raiding the cattle kraal and driving out 12 herd of cattle as they kept firing in the air to stop anyone following them.
The sources explained that the same night, the villagers mobilised themselves and donated money to take to Kalabo to enable the police buy fuel and pursue the gunmen who were reported to be heading towards the Angolan border.
On Wednesday police officers, joined by the villagers, drove to Sikongo near the border with Angola looking for the criminals and on their way back the police spotted the gang driving the 12 head of cattle and ambushed them.
During a brief fire fight along the Kalabo-Sikongo road, five of the six-man gang were arrested and all the animals recovered but the man suspected to be the gang leader behind the spate of robberies escaped.
The sources explained that police met the criminals about 100 km from where the animals were stolen and the gang was apparently heading to the border with Angola.
“Police managed to arrest five out of the six gunmen. The one who ran away was the gang leader and it is suspected that he is in Angola because he has a lot of connections with businessmen there.
‘‘Apparently he has been stealing animals in Zambia which he has been exchanging with motorbikes in Angola and then bring them to Zambia for sale.
“The police invaded the village, beat up everyone, and told them to drive the cattle in the village to Kalabo for identification because a number of animals have been disappearing from Libonda since the criminals started attacking villagers and it was suspected that some of the animals which were stolen from there and could have been driven to the Angolan border for safe-keeping before being exchanged with motorbikes,” the source said.