Thursday, October 13, 2011

Al Shabaab kidnap aid workers at Kenyan camp

By FRED MUKINDA fmukinda@ke.nationmedia.com AND DANIEL NYASSY dnyassy@ke.nationmedia.com

Two Spaniards were on Thursday kidnapped by al Shabaab gunmen at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa.

The victims were relief workers with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

Emergency response teams comprising the police and the military were airborne minutes after the incident at Dadaab Ifo camp was reported.

But by the time of going to press, there was no indication that the Kenyan forces had tracked down the kidnappers.

This marks an escalation of cross-border raids by the Islamic militants who have so far abducted two tourists and killed another in Lamu. (READ: Kenya's security forces on the spot after attacks)

On Thursday, they struck at midday in a raid that took about 40 minutes. Officers aboard military and police helicopters complained of poor visibility because it was raining heavily.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: “We’ve dispatched a helicopter. Another chopper from the military is also involved.

‘‘They have reported that manoeuvring is difficult because of bad weather but the operation is under way.”

A witness told the Nation by phone from Dadaab that the victims were doctors and were being driven home from work.

Shot the driver

“The attackers, who were armed with AK-47 rifles waited for them outside. As soon as the vehicle carrying them left the gate, they blocked it, shot the driver and abducted the two foreigners to an unknown destination,” the witness, a Kenyan worker at the camp, said.

He added: “The attackers were among the refugees who have stayed here for some time. It is difficult to know when they came because we have new arrivals every day.”

He believes there are many more al Shabaab fighters in the camp pretending to be refugees.

Thursday’s incident was the third in two months, in which foreigners were abducted by gunmen and taken to lawless Somalia.

French woman Marieu Dedieu was kidnapped on Manda Island on October 1 while Mrs Judith Tebbutt, a Briton, was abducted and her husband David shot dead at Kiwayu resort in Kiunga in September.

The victims were taken away in speedboats in the earlier incidents. The latest incursion happened in spite of heightened security operation on the vast Kenya-Somalia border, on land, sea and air.

In the Indian Ocean, naval ships have been deployed in the high seas while boats from the Maritime Police Unit, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Fisheries department as well as the Navy are patrolling the coastline.

Military and police helicopters are also being used for round-the-clock aerial surveillance at the Coast.

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