Venezuela envoy killed in embassy ‘power play’-police

NAIROBI, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s top diplomat in Nairobi was killed at her home by three intruders and Kenyan police believe a struggle for power at the embassy was the motive, they said today.

Olga Fonseca, Venezuela’s acting ambassador and charge d’affaires, was found strangled in her bed on Friday morning.

Fonseca’s embassy colleague, first secretary Dwight Sagaray, who was arrested on Saturday and brought before the High Court on Monday, will soon be formally charged as the main suspect, police said.

“We think the murder was a power play….jostling for positions in the embassy,” Nicholas Kamwende, head of the criminal investigations department in Nairobi, told Reuters.

Police have also issued an arrest warrant for Sagaray’s friend and neighbour, Muhammed Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, in connection with Fonseca’s death.

Kamwende said Hassan, a Kenyan man of Somali descent, had in the past “masqueraded as a Venezuelan embassy official” and was known to have used Sagaray’s official vehicle.

Kenyan police are also looking for two other men in connection with their investigation.

Fonseca died between 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Thursday and 10 a.m. on Friday, police said.

“Three people are suspected to have accessed the house in the dead of night,” Kamwende said, referring to Fonseca’s white mansion, surrounded by tropical trees and an electric fence, in the wealthy Nairobi neighbourhood of Runda.

Police charged two Kenyan “askaris” or security guards at Fonseca’s compound on Monday with failing to use any reasonable means to stop her murder. They both pleaded not guilty.

Nine people have been arrested since Fonseca’s body was discovered, six of whom were released without charge.

Fonseca began her posting at the embassy on July 15, and her short time there was marked by controversy.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Ministry officials said Kenyan staff at Fonseca’s residence had complained to the ministry’s Diplomatic Police Unit after she fired them.

The employees said Fonseca had sacked them after they refused to retract sexual harassment allegations against the former head of the embassy.

The Venezuelan government said Fonseca was a brilliant diplomat and offered its full collaboration to Kenyan authorities, who arrested Sagaray only after his diplomatic immunity was waived.

“I think that the investigation is coming to a conclusion soon and we think that we know who committed this heinous act,” Kamwende said. “It’s just a matter of time before we get them all.”

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