Maize traders ferry their produce using donkeys along the Eldoret-Kapsabet route in Uasin Gishu County. Local residents misuse animals like donkeys without caring about the Animal Life Protection Act. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

A few weeks ago, suspected Al Shabaab terrorists struck the centre of Elwak town in Mandera County. When the dust settled, several people were confirmed dead.

It was a sad day for the country and its valiant efforts to preserve peace and security within its borders. However, the manner in which the cowardly perpetrators carried out this criminal act is particularly abhorrent. They exploited a helpless donkey to attack fellow humans, killing it in the process.

The fading Al Shabaab are clearly becoming desperate, resorting to increasingly desperate methods to execute their malevolent plans. Yet, even in war, there are lines that combatants should not cross—animal cruelty is one of them, along with the targeting of defenceless women and children.

Al Shabaab are savage beasts that will employ any means to assert their presence. It seems no fighter is willing to sacrifice their life for an unworthy cause, making donkeys—the innocent beasts of burden—an easy target for these cowards.

This is not the first time this year that they have used donkeys as a means of transporting and launching Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to attack innocent, unsuspecting Kenyans, including some police officers. In the latest incident, the terrorists loaded a bomb onto a donkey cart and drove the poor animal toward the targeted civilians. They then disembarked and detonated the explosive, killing the animal and 13 people.

One may understand their desperation to make an impact and demonstrate their ability to fight back. For just a day earlier, the Kenyan multi-agency security team had arrested a wanted terror suspect believed to have played a role in the brutal killings of a police officer and two chiefs in Lamu County five years ago. The three murders occurred in December 2019, and the suspect, Mustakima Mohammed Ali, along with his suspected accomplice, went into hiding in Boni Forest after the heinous acts.

Mustakima was apprehended in a Malindi-bound bus in a Sunday afternoon operation by the anti-terrorism police and their Special Operations Group counterparts at the Sambaki Bridge roadblock while traveling from Lamu. This was a significant blow to the terror group. However, it does not justify the cruelty that Al Shabaab is increasingly employing against animals.

In January, another donkey cart loaded with explosives in Bula Hawa, Somalia, was detonated on the Kenyan side of the border point, killing one Kenyan officer and injuring four. The rider of the donkey cowardly jumped off before detonating the device, saving himself, unlike the brave suicide bombers we are familiar with.

In the cruel landscape of modern warfare, where terror knows no bounds, this despicable tactic sinks to new depths of depravity. This heinous method inflicts devastating harm upon innocent civilians and represents the highest level of animal cruelty imaginable.

It is incumbent upon the international community to unequivocally condemn the use of such barbaric tactics and to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. We must stand in solidarity with the innocent victims, both human and animal, who suffer at the hands of terrorists who know no bounds in their pursuit of chaos and destruction.

In the face of such cowardice and cruelty, it is imperative that we reaffirm our commitment to justice, compassion, and the protection of all innocent life. Only then can we hope to confront and overcome the forces of terror that seek to undermine the very fabric of our civilisation.

In doing so, we honour the memory of those who have fallen victim to the senseless violence wrought by donkey-borne IEDs, ensuring that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. And the donkey is avenged!

All said, it is incumbent upon citizens to work together with security agencies to defeat these cowardly hypocrites.