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Families flee Laisamis after night attack by armed morans

RIFT VALLEY
By WAINAINA NDUNG'U | September 17th 2014

The Saturday night attack on businesses in Laisamis by armed morans has seen more than 30 families flee the area.

The first group, mainly people who spent two nights out in the cold, arrived in Isiolo yesterday aboard a bus carrying what little they had managed to salvage.

Dorcas Gacheri, 28, who has a four-month-old baby, said she owned a small retail food shop but the attackers looted it.

"Everything was taken from my shop. I lost goods worth Sh150,000. They even took our clothes; what my child is wearing now was donated," she said.

Damaris Kinyati, 32, was a vegetable vendor but the attackers took all her goods and made away with Sh13,760.

 LOST PROPERTY

Joseph Kigweta, who owned a shop, said he lost property worth Sh200,000. He added that all business owners who come from outside the area have been affected.

"We are all equal partners. We invest and stock up on what they need and even go a step further to ensure that we sell nothing but the best. We therefore do not know why our businesses were attacked," he said.

Mr Kigweta said most of the affected traders were still in Laisamis while others were stranded in Merile after failing to find a way to flee the area.

"We spent two nights in the open. Some of us spent the night at the police, AP and DC offices' compound. We resolved to go back home because our security is no longer guaranteed," Kigweta said.

The traders blamed security personnel for their woes and wondered how such a huge number of armed men could attack a town that hosts a district headquarters and go on a looting spree unhindered.

Apart from the traders, teachers and civil servants have also fled the area.

The Saturday attack followed the shooting of five people in Laisamis by a police officer locals have described as 'notorious'.

The police constable, who was arrested and transferred to Marsabit Town Police Station, shot and injured Kore Lewagat, a Standard Seven pupil from Mercy Primary School, and Salio Lerapo, a KCPE exam candidate from the neighbouring Laisamis Primary School.

The third victim is a Form Four school leaver, Ramatu Letelwa, who was shot and critically injured in the stomach, while 50-year-old Kiboran Ibalanga and 27-year-old Lerato Taraya both sustained leg injuries.

Lewagat was first taken to Isiolo Level Four Hospital, then moved to Ruiri Mission Hospital in Meru County before being taken to Outspan Hospital in Nyeri town. He is now at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi for specialised treatment.

Lerapo and Ibalanga are both being treated at Ruiri.

CRISIS MEETINGS

On Sunday night, security personnel deployed from as far as Marsabit Central repulsed armed men who were out to attack the town for the second time.

"We have deployed extra security personnel who are now patrolling Laisamis all round the clock. They were able to contain the situation on Sunday night," said Marsabit County Commander Bernard Kogo.

Residents reported that there was sporadic gunfire in the trading centre as security forces exchanged fire with the armed men.

For the second day, security personnel led by Mr Kogo and Marsabit South Deputy County Commissioner, Mutuku Mwenga, Marsabit Deputy Governor Abdi Ali, Senator Abubakar Hargura, Laisamis MCA Mohamud Kochale, members of the district security committee and villages elders met to address the crisis.

Hargura and Kochale confirmed that the security meetings are ongoing and urged the traders not to leave, saying leaders were already addressing the situation.

"We want them to stay but we also respect their decision," Kochael said, adding that the trading centre remained paralysed for the third day with schools closed and public offices not operating.

They alleged that a local politician is inciting the morans, a claim that could not be immediately verified by the security chiefs.

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