11 police officers killed in a deadly blast in Liboi as reinforcement is sent there

The remains of police vehicle after the Liboi IED attack in Garissa County. [Photo, Standard]
Eleven security personnel from the elite General Service Unit were Saturday killed in a deadly blast after their vehicle ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on the Degoh Road, Liboi, Garissa County.

Their vehicle was extensively damaged in the 4 pm incident. The officers were from Harehare GSU camp were on patrol when their Toyota Land Cruiser ran over the IED believed to have been planted by Al-Shabaab militants operating there.

It marked the latest incident to affect security personnel operating in the region. More than 30 have been killed this year alone in separate such incidents in attacks staged by the terror group.

On Saturday, Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said a joint patrol team of Kenya Defence Forces, Administration Police, Rapid Response Police Unit and Kenya Police Service had been dispatched to the area to pursue the attackers.    

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“The National Police Service regrets to inform the public that NPS officers were on patrol along Damajale-Harehare Road near the Kenya-Somali border when their motor vehicle ran over an Improvised Explosive Device,” he said in a statement.

It was one of the deadliest to affect the GSU personnel.

Garissa Governor Ali Korane condemned the incident as the killing of our security officers by the enemies of humanity.

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"Saddened by the news of the death of 10 police officers killed in an IED attack along Liboi-Damajale road, Garissa County. I extend my condolences to their family, relatives, and colleagues," Korane said in a statement.

Their bodies were flown to Nairobi yesterday (Sunday) and received by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Mutyambai.

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Matiang’i said he was saddened by the deaths.

“I extend my deepest sympathies and profound solidarity with the families of our gallant officers who lost their lives in Garrisa last night. Their selfless patriotic sacrifice to serve Kenya renews our resolve in the fight against terror,” he said.

 The area has been experiencing a lull of attacks from the militants who cross from neighbouring unstable Somalia.

This baffled intelligence officers who predicted a planned attack.

The terrorists have been targeting security agencies in the area by planting bombs on their way. The border is porous and allows the gang to roam.

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The incident also brings to question why the personnel were not using Armoured Personnel Carriers that were bought by the government for their use.

The APCs are however at times badly damaged and cause deaths when hit. For instance, eight police officers were killed on September 10 when their APC was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in Elwak area, Mandera County

Police said then the APCs acquired from China cannot withstand a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack.

Spokesman Charles Owino said they are however equipped with Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles which can resist such a bomb.

 “We wish to clarify that the attack was not in any way due to the unsuitability of our equipment,” said Owino.

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He said both APCs and MRAPs are used for specific assignments as they have different firepower to resist an attack.

“Armoured Personnel Carriers can resist specific calibers of ammunition while MRAPs resist mines and RPGs,” said Owino.

They were traveling between Farhama and Elram when their two armoured vehicles and a lorry were hit by an RPG fired by suspected Al-Shabaab militants who were hiding in the area.

The team was patrolling near the porous border when the attack happened, police said.

The vehicles affected- the Norinco VN4 armoured personnel carriers were acquired from China in 2016 to specifically protect security agents from landmine and IED attacks.

The personnel were told to travel in the vehicles at all times to protect them from attacks by the insurgents.

Kenya bought the 30 Chinese made VN-4 type APCs, which were given to the General Service Unit and Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU).

An additional fleet of CS/VP3 type Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles was purchased and, among other units, was deployed to the Border Patrol Unit of the Administration Police.

VN-4 APC model is manufactured by Chongqing Tiema Industries Corporation, a China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) company.

The CS/VP3 MRAPs model belongs to the Chinese Company Poly Technologies.

Officials say there is no guarantee that one can survive a blast while in an MRAP, because that would depend on the mass of the explosive device.

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

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IEDGarissa CountyAl-Shabaab militantsHilary MutyambaiGovernor Ali Korane