Riots erupted in Garissa town Tuesday morning after six people were shot and scores injured in a police and military operation following the killing of three Kenya Defence Forces soldiers in the town.
The off-duty soldiers were shot by unknown attackers as they changed a tyre on their truck on Monday.
At least six people including a local chief, two women and two children were shot after irate residents engaged the security personnel in running battles as they pursued the attackers who are reported to have fled to a neighbouring suburb.
The Kenya Red Cross, in a statement, said that by Tuesday afternoon one person had died and 48 others were treated at the Garissa Provincial Hospital. The residents were protesting the violent reaction by the soldiers to the killing of their colleagues.
Tension was high in the town on Monday night as the KDF soldiers and police combed its vicinity to flush out the suspects. The security personnel conducted a house-to-house search for guns and other ammunition.
Most businesses remained closed for the better part of Tuesday morning as residents opted to remain indoors.
The riots in the town are said to have been started by youths who confronted police, sparking clashes.
According to residents who spoke to the Nation, the youths were protesting the burning of Al Waqaf hotel in Garissa Town by unknown people after riots on Monday evening. The youths took to the streets armed with weapons and stoned the soldiers and police officers.
A statement from the Kenya Red Cross said their personnel had, in the morning, rescued four men, four women and two children, eight of them being gunshot casualties.
“Relative calm and normality has been witnessed in the town this afternoon. There is a need for urgent referral of three casualties to Kenyatta National Hospital,” said the Kenya Red Cross statement.
This happened as Defence Minister Yusuf Hajji, who visited the town on Tuesday, said he did not order any military operation in Garissa. He said he had ordered investigations into the swoop.
KDF spokesman Cyrus Oguna said that soldiers were not involved in the operation in Garissa. He said soldiers were not allowed to engage in any operation unless given orders.
“No such orders were given in relation to what is happening in Garissa,” he said.
Col Oguna, however, said that following the killing of the three soldiers, the attackers fled to Bumuila Mzuri area resulting in an operation to pursue them.
Dujis MP Aden Duale condemned the operation, accusing soldiers of “harassing innocent civilians”. He said the army should go after the Al-Shabaab militia who had attacked their colleagues instead of harassing civilians.