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Cuban Doctors in Garissa and Mandera withdrawn as families of abducted seek answers

By Mercy Adhiambo and Abdimalik Hajir | April 14th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Cuban doctors who were abducted by suspected Al-shabaab militants. [File, Standard]

A day after two Cuban doctors were abducted in Mandera, their counterparts in Garissa and Wajir counties were withdrawn. 

Security was beefed up in Mandera as security personnel surveyed the area on foot and air, even as the locals dispatched elders to Somalia in a bid to negotiate for the release of the doctors, Landy Rodriquez and Assel Herrera Correa. 

The Cuban doctors working in Garissa and Wajir left for Nairobi yesterday, as the search for their colleagues intensified.

Garissa OCPD Aaron Morasae said the team from Garissa left on Saturday morning, and it was not clear when they will return.

A visit to the Garissa referral hospital confirmed that the doctors had not reported to work and neither were they in their houses. 

Garissa Deputy Governor Abdi Dagane Muhumed said they have had concerns about the security of the Cuban doctors. He said they have had to make regular changes on their security, including moving them to different houses.

They also have had to increase bodyguards to escort the doctors, Mr Muhumed said.

“We had to tighten the security around the doctors and make a lot of changes so that they are not exposed to risk,” he said.

Wajir Governor Abdi Mohamud said they were directed to evacuate the two Cuban doctors to Nairobi following a national security advisory.

In Mandera, elders were on Friday sent to Somalia to trace and hold talks with the abductors, believed to be members of terror group Al Shabaab. Insiders revealed that the victims were alive and were being moved from one place to another.

The search

At the same time, the Inspector General of Police, Hilary Mutyambai, held a crisis meeting with security officials in his office yesterday following the attack.

Police spokesman Charles Owino said the National Security Advisory Committee reviewed the operational status on the kidnapping of Dr Correa and Dr Rodriguez.

“Concerted efforts are being made for their search and rescue by a multinational agency team. The team has also briefed Health, Interior and Defense CSs,” he said in a statement to newsrooms.

Intelligence has also been heightened and at least two choppers under the command of a brigadier are leading the rescue mission as the Mandera regional commissioner led ground security officers.

In Cuba, the families of the abducted doctors anxiously waited for details of the recovery mission. Sheyla Herrera, 17-year-old daughter to Dr Correa, expressed frustration at the Cuban ministry of public health for not telling them what is going on.

She says before the abduction, she would talk to her father every day and was often enthusiastic to share the medical experience gathered in the field. The last time they talked was on Thursday.

“I do not know anything,” she told the Cuban press. She said the family had not received communication about her father’s condition, or what measures were being taken to return him home safely.

Mr Owino said Health CS Sicily Kariuki was in touch with her counterpart in Cuba, who is also receiving regular briefs on ongoing efforts to locate and rescue the doctors.  

The Cuban Public Health officials said they were in touch with the Kenyan authorities and had created a “governmental working group” to follow up on the sensitive issue.

Rodríguez is married and has a five-year-old daughter. 

A total of 100 Cuban doctors came to Kenya in June last year to boost provision of health services in a government-to-government programme which has seen 50 Kenyan medics dispatched to the Caribbean nation.

The decision by President Kenyatta to engage the Cuban government is expected to play a key role in efforts to transform healthcare. 

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