Three police officers are feared dead and eight others injured after bandits attacked a police convoy along the Kitale-Lodwar highway in Turkana on Saturday morning.
Transport along the highway was paralysed for hours at Kainuk trading centre following the deadly shootout between the bandits and security officers. A traffic snarl-up on both lanes stretched for kilometres.
Speaking to The Standard, stranded motorist Vincent Olekosek said the incident caught most travellers unawares and unsure of their safety as police officers battled the bandits for hours in an attempt to reopen the highway.
"We arrived at Kainuk at around 8am, and we were met by a heavy security presence. We could see a police vehicle burning on the road. It was scary. We thought the bandits were planning to storm Kainuk trading centre. We need the government to act with speed and end this insecurity menace," said Olekosek.
A police report seen by The Standard revealed that the bandits, numbering over 300, ambushed the officers in two groups, five kilometres from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) camp in Kakong.
A fierce fire exchange ensued and raged for over two hours leaving eight officers injured, including three senior officers who were leading the operation. The report also disclosed that three Land Cruisers, among other vehicles, used by the officers had their tyres deflated, and suffered significant damage.
Confirming the incident, Turkana County Police Commander Samuel Ndanyi said the officers, among them Turkana South police commander, were injured after coming under attack while patrolling Kaakongu and KWS areas along the Lodwar- Kitale Highway.
Ndanyi said they, however, managed to recover, among others, a mobile phone, 31 rounds of ammunition, cash, a solar panel, footwear and a live tortoise that was tied to a tree.
The injured officers were treated at Kainuk dispensary while those who were seriously injured were moved to Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
Banditry along the highway is on the rise with several motorists and passengers shot dead and robbed of valuables over the last month.
The latest incident involves the killing of a 23-year-old Friends Schools Kamusinga student. The Sudanese national was shot dead during an ambush by heavily armed men near Kakong trading centre along the Lodwar-Kitale highway.
The deceased was one of the 14 passengers aboard a matatu heading to Lodwar from Kitale when an unknown number of gunmen waylaid and opened fire on the vehicle.
Separately, two armed bandits ordered a Red Cross society driver to stop and robbed him and his two passengers of their valuables at gunpoint. The midday incident occurred a few kilometres from a KWS camp.