By Cyrus Ombati
The death toll of the police officers killed in an ambush by armed bandits in Lomerok area in Baragoi, Samburu North District has risen to 11.
This was after a police officer who was found hanging to his life with injuries in a thicket more than 24 hours after they were ambushed passed on.
The officer who had a bullet lodged in his chest was found Sunday morning several hours after the attack that left at least seven of his colleagues dead on Saturday.
Police mounted operation in the area searching for more missing officers following the attack, which was described as worst in history.
“We have found one officer with serious wound in the chest in a thicket and the search is still on but he has left us. We do not know the fate of the missing officers who are about 11,” said a senior officer on the ground but asked not to be named.
There were about 11 eleven officers who cannot be accounted for so far. The officers on the ground who are led by Rift Valley head of police operations Willy Lugusa said they had difficulties accessing some of the routes that the attackers used.
Witnesses and survivors said the group of officers were aboard a police lorry pursuing hundreds of cattle that had been robbed from herders in the area when they were ambushed.
Apparently, the attackers hid in thickets as their accomplices drove the animals ahead and sprayed the police vehicle with bullets and other “sophisticated” weapons, said a senior police officer.
It was then that some of the officers escaped from the scene with injuries in a bid to avoid more attacks from the gunmen. It is not clear if they managed to hit back.
By the time they received reinforcement, the attackers had left the scene with robbed animals.
In Nairobi, internal security assistant minister Simeon Lesirma chaired a crisis meeting to discuss the incident. No communication was given out following the meeting attended by permanent secretary Mutea Iringo and senior police and provincial administration officers.
But insiders said the meeting resolved to push for the ongoing disarmament exercise in the region to get rid of illegal weapons in hands of civilians.
Iringo said: “We have a plan for that region and we will you more soon. Things cannot happen the same way.”
He urged local leaders to spearhead peace and reconciliation even as he added more personnel had been sent to the area.
At the Kenyatta National Hospital, a section of a ward has been dedicated to police officers who were brought there on Saturday alone.
They include seven policemen and two reservists who were injured in the Baragoi incident. They were later joined by another officer who was shot and wounded in an attack in Nairobi’s Dandora estate.
Police said they are yet to know the attackers of the officer who sustained serious stomach injuries. He is in a stable condition, officials at the hospital said.
KNH spokesman Kibet Mengich said the officers included four Administration Police officers, one from GSU and two from Anti-Stock Theft Unit.
“Two are admitted with gunshot wounds on various parts of the body while seven have soft tissue injuries, fractures, lower limb and abdomen injuries,” said Mengich.
The officers at the hospital were heard complaining of neglect by the state of those who operate in northern part of the country were cattle rustlers are having a field day robbing animals some of which end up in butcheries in Nairobi and are exported.
“That place needs permanent choppers and dedicated officials to ensure the robbers who you refer as rustlers are contained by use of maximum force. The area is neglected,” said an officer who was among those injured in the attack.
Last month, 13 civilians were killed in the same region by bandits and no arrest has been made so far.
Two communities of Turkana and Samburu in Baragoi have on several occasions engaged in conflicts that involved armed attacks.