Police in Nairobi, Kenya are on the lookout for a gang that has been blackmailing -- and in some cases even raping -- closeted gay men in the African nation.
Identity Kenya reports the gang, made up of approximately five men and a police officer, have been luring men to houses in Embakasi estate, where they were robbed and in some cases sexually assaulted.
Victims shared their harrowing stories with the paper. One said the gang demanded money and threatened to release naked photos of the married man to his wife and colleagues.
The officer in charge of the Embakasi police division, Akello Odhiambo, urged victims to come forward.
Queerty reports that according to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), extortion is one of the biggest problems facing the country's LGBT community.
The problem is exasperated by the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.
Anthony Olouch of GALCK said that shouldn't stop victims of this latest scam from coming forward, however. “A blackmail case shall be treated as such regardless of the circumstances that landed you in the hand of the blackmailers," according to Queerty.
Identity Kenya has been following these types of blackmailing cases for a long time, and noted that a distrust of authorities has not helped witnesses come forward.
The magazine published an investigative report in September that found police themselves often targeted gay men in these types of extortion schemes.
Denis Nizoka, editor of Identity Kenya and author of the report, told Gay Star News that he has personally witnessed a kidnapping by members of law enforcement.
"The stories of blackmail I have reported show that the police and other blackmailers are using the law as an excuse to further violate the rights of LGBT persons. I hope that the police can be reformed to make it more LGBT friendly and enable victims to seek justice," Nizoka said.
"There are fears that if the police are made aware that they are being watched it may lead to further undesirable consequences," he added. "Issues of safety are also a concern with many fearing they may be further targeted and with extra-judicial killings that are common in Kenya."