8 killed as armoured vehicle runs over explosives in Lamu

One of the armoured personnel carriers being used for patrol in Lamu, Mandera and Baringo.  

Seven police officers died after an armoured personnel carrier (APC) was blown up by suspected Al Shabaab terrorists.

One civilian also died in the explosion.

The disintegration of the APC after hitting an improvised explosive device planted on the road sent shock waves in the security sector as questions emerged over the reliability of the vehicles recently purchased from China.

The officers were headed to Mokowe, from a rural border patrol unit in Mangai, for refueling when the APC ran over the bomb at about 8am.

Opened fire

Head of operations in the area, Noahj Mwivanda, said after the explosion, the terrorists opened fire on police officers who had rushed to rescue their colleagues.

As the two sides battled, the seven officers who were trapped in the APC died.

Kenya Defence Forces troops reinforced the police and ultimately repulsed the attackers whose number could not be established.

Bodies of the officers were later retrieved from the wreckage.

Former PC, James Ole Seriani, who is leading Operation Linda Boni, a joint operation between the military and police vowed to track down the attackers.

"We have received reinforcement from KDF and the police to pursue the attackers. There will be no hiding place for the militants" he added.

The attack will undoubtedly revive the debate about the reliability of Chinese made APCs

When the 30 APCs were secretly acquired in February 2016, ostensibly to help in the fight against interior terrorism and organised crime, experts questioned their safety following three incidents a few days into their use.

In the first case, the windscreen of one carrier was shattered in the middle of an operation.

In another case, security personnel complained that some APCs were leaking while others lacked proper ventilation to conduct operations in Coast and Northern Kenya.

In another incident, a group of General Service Unit personnel requested the suppliers to prove the vehicle's durability and efficiency in the filed.

The officers wanted the supplier to get into the APC and drive past them as they shot at it at close range.

"The supplier refused to get into the APC. He said he would not endanger his life by getting into the APC as we shot at it because it was not safe. We were all shocked," said an officer aware of the practice.

When the story broke in the media questioning the safety of the APCs police headquarters defended the machines.

"The machines have helped in securing officer in operations," said police spokesman, Charles Owino.

Mr Owino said the APCs were on a one-year warranty from their manufacturers, and that a Chinese technical team was in Kenya supervising their maintenance, usage and general performance.

"So far, the APCs have clocked 5,000 kilometres and are due for routine service. The air conditioning system is working well with the tyres in good condition. The APCs can run for over 100 kilometres on flat tyres," he said.

Vehicle's status

He was reacting to queries on the status of the vehicles amid claims they were not in use or helpful to police at large then.

The carriers were deployed to Mandera, Elwak, Liboi, Amuma, Mangai, Basuba, Milimani, Mkowe, Mugumumbi and Mangai and Barago, Tot and Arabai in West Pokot.

President Kenyatta commissioned the vehicles at a low-key ceremony attended by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet.

They were driven to GSU headquarters under heavily armed escort.

The Government said the vehicles were part of a multi-billion shilling plan to equip and modernise the police force.

Also shipped in was a range of security hardware including guns and bullet proof vests.

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