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TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015, Daily Nation (Kenya)
At least one police officer was killed and another is feared dead after a rescue party was ambushed by Al-Shabaab in Garissa County on Monday. The officers, 59 in total, were responding to a distress call by a police patrol team, whose vehicle had run over a landmine. Independent sources said two officers, one from the Administration Police and the other from the regular police, were killed.
In a statement yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Joseph Boinnet, said four officers were injured and airlifted to Nairobi for treatment and that everyone had been accounted for. There were no civilian casualties. Four police vehicles were damaged, two of them burnt beyond repair. In response to the attack, a joint Kenya Defence Force and police operation was launched yesterday morning.
It was not clear why the military was not more involved in patrolling the county, which has come under the most provocative raids by Al-Shabaab in recent months. The terrorists have reportedly taken over mosques and raised their flag on Kenyan territory for hours. Sources said the militants had been attacking in big numbers and were heavily armed, while the police appeared to be relatively fewer, lightly armed and without properly coordinated air support from the military.
The government spent the better part of Tuesday denying that any of the officers had died.
POLICE VEHICLES BURNT
In a statement, Mr Boinnet said of the rescue mission: “Arising from the attack, a contingent of officers responded for reinforcement and on arrival at the scene, engaged the attackers in a heavy fire-fight. In the ensuing tactical mission, two officers were critically injured and five police vehicles burnt down.” A tweet from the President’s Special Communication Unit (PSCU)’s digital arm, later withdrawn, read: “I mourn and pray with the family and friends of the police officers who lost their lives in Yumbi. They died protecting us. I salute them”.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery also dismissed reports about officers being killed in an ambush. “There was only a landmine that blew up a lorry. One officer was injured. We sent reinforcements. There was an ambush. No one was killed,” he said.
The officers who were ambushed had been on a mission to rescue their colleagues, who were attacked on Monday morning after their vehicle was hit by a landmine and another got stuck in the mud. The first group of officers were overpowered and some of them fled from the scene, leaving their vehicle behind. The second group, which went to answer their call for reinforcement was travelling in four vehicles when they were attacked. The attackers later set all the fire vehicles on fire.
In the earlier attack, which occurred at around 10am, officers from the Rural Border Patrol Unit (RBPU) at Banane Camp, under the command of a Superintendent Simiyu, had left for patrol within the Yumbis and Fafi areas in two vehicles. The lorry got stuck in mud and Mr Simiyu, together with five Administration Police officers, left the scene in a Land Cruiser to seek help from their colleagues at Hagadera.
The vehicle set off a landmine planted on the road by Al-Shabaab operatives at Yarey in Yumbis, about 30 km from Dadaab Police Station. The vehicle was extensively damaged and the officers on board sustained injuries. Mr Simiyu was also shot in the left hand in the incident. The attack came just four days after suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen raided a mosque in Yumbis and lectured locals on terrorism before leaving after day break.
The military spokesperson, Col David Obonyo, Tuesday said that the security operation would continue. According to him, the attackers had split into smaller groups to avoid being detected. “It is one single operation inside the country. The seven Al-Shabaab terrorists shot dead yesterday (Monday) were part of the group responsible for the attacks in Yumbis,” Col Obonyo said. Officers on the ground have claimed that the response was slow, with the senior officers visiting the area yesterday morning, about 12 hours after the attack.
One source said the officers are paid Sh20 per day (if single) and Sh40 per day (for married ones), as hardship allowance for operating in the area. This is the third major by attack by Al-Shabaab in Garissa County in the last month. The worst atrocity claimed by the group was on April 2, when four of terrorists attacked Garissa University College at dawn, killing 147 students and staff.
Last week, they again attacked and occupied three villages near the border with Somalia. Though interior Cabinet secretary Nkaissery denied it, independent sources confirmed that the terrorists had hoisted Al-Shabaab’s flag before they were repelled by security personnel.
A day after the mosque raid, Kenyan security forces reported that they had thwarted a planned attack by the terrorists on a village in Fafi constituency. And yesterday, Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa said another attack had been repelled in the county after a suspect was arrested with a cache of weapons. He was later charged in court.