By Cyrus Ombati and Adow Jubat
Garissa, Kenya: Six people, including two police officers, were killed during an attack on two police posts by suspected Al Shabaab terrorists close to the border with Somalia.
Six AP officers were reported missing after the five-hour gun battle with the heavily armed militiamen that authorities estimated at over 30.
The simultaneous attacks on the Administration Police border posts at Damajaley and Abdisugow villages on Saturday in the border district of Liboi in Garissa County underlined the worsening insecurity in northern Kenya.
Sunday, a Twitter posting purportedly from the terrorists claimed two Kenyans “Prisoners of War” were “now firmly in the custody of the mujahideen.”
Bodies of the two AP officers and four civilians were discovered in the bush hours after the 6pm raid.
There were reports that two of the raiders were killed during the shootout. Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo blamed the attack on the Al Shabaab terror group, whom Kenya Defence Forces routed from swathes of Somalia after a yearlong military offensive.
Kimaiyo said a teacher, a Red Cross officer and a 15-year old boy were among those killed.
The attack comes 16 months after suspected Al Shabaab terrorists killed five AP officers during an attack on their camp in Gerrile, Wajir County.
During the raid, the militia also abducted the local District Officer Edward Mule and an Immigration Officer Fredrick Wainaina who have been missing since the January 2012 attack.
The terrorist group has publicly acknowledged they are holding the two Kenyan government officials hostage in retaliation for Kenya’s military operation in Somalia.
In the Saturday raid, the local chief Omar Khalif and a senior administration police inspector injured during the raid were rushed to Kulan Health Centre, awaiting an ambulance to take them to the Dadaab district hospital.
The raiders escaped with firearms seized from the slain officers. Speaking from his hospital bed, the injured chief said the heavily armed militia, who he estimated to be over 30, shot in the air to scare off residents before raiding the camps.
“The militia seemed to be targeting the Administration Police armoury but their attempts to access it were thwarted by the brave policemen,” Khalif said.
Former Damajaley ward councilor Hassan Noor, who was at the scene, told The Standard the heavily armed militia struck the remote villages at around 6pm.
Noor said they launched well-coordinated attacks with one group surrounding the village while another stormed the heavily guarded AP camp.
He said after a fierce gunfight that lasted over five hours an Amref Kenya staff identified as Dan Kioko and a female primary school teacher were among those who lay dead.
Kioko was reportedly conducting agronomical services for the Kenya Red Cross.
A police sergeant who fled the attackers was unaccounted for by the time of going the press. Witnesses said the attackers drove back into Somalia in a file with valuables that they had looted from the stations.
Dadaab DC Albert Kimani said reinforcements had been deployed. The Standard learnt a combined force of GSU, regular and Administration Police backed by military personnel had been dispatched.
Kimaiyo said he had sent his deputies Grace Kaindi and Samuel Arachi to assess the situation ahead of today’s planned meeting with local leaders in Nairobi.
“We will pursue the attackers to the end and enough officers are currently involved in the operation,” he said.
North Eastern police boss Charlton Murithi said more security personnel had been sent to the area to help trace the missing officers and weapons.
“They were gunmen who attacked two police posts in the area and we have casualties. We are tracing other officers who are missing,” said Murithi.
Other officials said intelligence reports had warned police of an attack by militia from Somalia.
The assault is the latest in a series of attacks that have been reported in the area since Kenyan troops crossed to Somalia to crush Al Shabaab militants blamed for fanning insecurity.
Police officers, military personnel and Kenya Revenue Authority officials have in the past been killed in targeted attacks in Garissa.
But authorities are also investigating leads that interests other than retaliation by the Al Shabaab may motivate some killings.
On Wednesday, three watchmen were shot dead by unknown assailants in attacks at Ifo shopping centre in Dadaab refugee camp.
Gunmen who escaped on foot after grabbing their mobile phones wounded four other guards in the attacks.
Police mounted an operation on Wednesday night and arrested more than 500 suspects.
Hours earlier, two people had been shot dead in Garissa town by assailants who escaped on foot. A week earlier, suspected Al Shabaab militiamen hijacked two four-wheel drive vehicles ferrying miraa at Arabia trading centre on the Mandera-Lafey road.
They offloaded the cargo and diverted the vehicles into Somalia.
In April, police mounted an operation that was aimed at getting men behind serial killings that have left dozens of people dead in the area in the last year alone.
This followed the killing of 10 people by gunmen in a hotel. The 10 were killed in an attack targeted at Kwa Chege Hotel patrons.
The incidents started in October 2011 when Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia to fight the Al Shabaab terrorist group.
In a separate incident, a police officer committed suicide by shooting himself in Garissa Town.
Mwangi Maina used his G3 rifle to shoot his head at Shifta Camp on Saturday.