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Six shot dead during ambush on two buses heading to Mandera

The bus that was attacked by gunmen on its way to Mandera, on 01/07/2016.PHOTO COURTESY.

Six people were killed and scores injured when a bus plying the Mandera-Nairobi route was sprayed with bullets by heavily armed assailants yesterday morning.

According to a government source, the attackers, whose number was not immediately established, ambushed two buses heading to Mandera from Nairobi between Wargadud and Elwak at 10.30am.

The attack happened barely 24 hours after Mandera County security committee had stopped non-Somalis from travelling by bus until the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.

The government yesterday declared Iddu-Ul-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month.

Speaking to The Standard on Saturday on the phone, North Eastern Regional Commissioner Mohamud Saleh said the gunmen flagged down the two buses, which were moving in a convoy. He said the attackers could be members of a local militia group, dismissing reports that they were Al-Shabaab militants.

Saleh said the driver of the first bus, belonging to Tawakal Express Bus Company, defied the orders and sped off, forcing the criminals to indiscriminately open fire on the second bus belonging to E-Coach Bus Company.

“The attackers waylaid the buses at a road junction. They started shooting at the second bus, which was a few minutes behind the first one. Six people were killed on the spot,” he said.

The administrator said the bus veered off the road into a ditch after the driver lost control.

“We suspect the attack is an act of a clan militia operating within the area. Unless proven otherwise, this is not the work of Al-Shabaab or any foreign bandits since the area where the incident occurred is far from the Somalia-Kenya border, where terror attacks usually happen,” said the regional boss.

Saleh said there is emerging tendency by residents to quickly attribute any criminal incidents to Al-Shabaab to divert attention of the security personnel from local criminals who could be behind some of the banditry attacks in the county.

“We suspect this attack could be the work of local criminals or people hired to settle scores over business rivalry between the bus companies. The area where the attack happened is interior and the assailants are criminals who seemingly know the terrain adequately,” he said.

Mandera County Commissioner Fredrick Shisia said police could not immediately establish the number of passengers injured in the attack.

When stopping non-Somalis from travelling by bus, Mandera acting Deputy County Commissioner Yonah Nyawir said they had information that attacks would increase in the last 10 days of Ramadhan.

“We are not stopping people from travelling from Nairobi or Mandera. Let them use other means. It is a short-term security measure,” Nyawir said on Thursday.

As authorities pursued the enemy, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho told the world that Kenya is safe after America issued a new travel advisory over terror threats.

Saleh said all exit and entry points at the border have been sealed off to ensure the attackers do not escape, adding that a contingent of security personnel were deployed on the Kenya-Somalia border.

He said aerial surveillance was also being carried out to apprehend the attackers and bring them to book.

This is the latest incident to happen in the area. Two weeks ago, five police officers were killed in an attack by gunmen who used grenades and guns.

The bodies of constables Nicholas Koyo, Peter Makemba, Hilary Kandie, James Mulei and John Pelekeche were flown aboard a police chopper a day after they had been killed in an ambush in Elwak , Mandera County, on June 20.

The first three officers were armed with AK47 and G3 rifles with 180 bullets and the arms were all missing when a reinforcement team arrived at the scene.

The weapons were apparently taken away by the attackers who ambushed them in Kutulo area.

The officers were in a group of nine and were escorting a bus headed for Nairobi when the attack happened.

The deceased join a list of others who have died in similar circumstances in the region and other parts of the country out of terror-related incidents.

North Eastern region is considered a dangerous working zone and security agents are usually targeted for attacks by terror groups operating there.

Recently, there has been heightened terror attacks in the region and globally. In Turkey’s biggest airport, terrorists killed 41 people this week.

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