– fleeing fugitives may be stricken with malaria: sources
The cat-and-mouse drama between a team of relentless Joint Services ranks and the gunmen they confronted at Christmas Falls may be drawing to a close, following reports that two of the fugitives were spotted deep in hostile jungle terrain yesterday.
Kaieteur News understands that a Forestry employee passing through the area reported seeing the men, whom he said appeared to be stricken with malaria.
According to this report, the two men, who are carrying “long guns”, were about four hours ahead of the ranks, who are hot on their trail.
Kaieteur News understands that one of the gunmen was dreadlocked. Both men were reportedly shirtless and barefoot.
It is unclear whether Rondell Rawlins, called ‘Fine Man’, is one of the men who the Forestry employee allegedly saw.
Sources described the area as “malaria-infested” and stated that malaria kits were among the medical supplies that the Joint Services had recovered from the gang’s hideout last week Friday.
A source said that the fact that only two of the gunmen were seen suggests that the gang members have split up.
Meanwhile, the army signaled that they were stepping up the pressure on the fugitives by shuttling several more ranks into the area yesterday.
Opinion is divided about the chances of the six gunmen surviving in this hostile terrain, given reports that they are without food, are poorly clothed and that one of them may be wounded.
The security forces are convinced that the fugitives will encounter even more hostile terrain if they head further south.
One official said that the gunmen will have to travel about 100 miles in thick jungle before they could reach any form of civilization.
The Joint Services have indicated that they will remain in the area until the bandits are either captured or killed.
The Joint Services are maintaining that all the exit points have been cut off, and Suriname authorities have been alerted in the event that the bandits try to cross the Berbice River.
However, a medical expert said the men could survive for as long as 30 days without food and as many as seven days without water.
He pointed out that there would be no shortage of water in the jungle at this time, while the fugitives could feast on berries that are in abundance in that type of environment.
Some persons have even suggested that the men may have somehow slipped the Joint Services cordon, particularly since only police ranks were reportedly involved in the confrontation with the gunmen.
“Those men would not go into an area that they couldn’t escape from,” one source opined.
However, the Joint Services ranks pursuing the fugitives are convinced that the men are still in the general location.
This was based on signs that the fleeing gunmen are cutting trails heading in a southerly direction into the dense jungle.
Meanwhile, a woman who police had detained at Lethem for suspected links with the gunmen, was released on station bail yesterday.
Police had detained the woman after finding her phone number, among several others, in a diary they retrieved from the gunmen’s hideout. It is believed that the diary belonged to Rawlins.
It has been two Fridays since ranks from the Joint Services swooped down on the gang at their hideout some 300 miles up the Berbice River.
During the confrontation, 21-year-old Otis Fiffee, called ‘Mud Up’, was killed while the ranks believe that they wounded others.
The ranks recovered three FN rifles, four shotguns, and a .32 revolver; two AK-47 magazines, seven FN rifle magazines, and several rounds of ammunition from the gunmen’s well-stocked hideout.
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