Suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a residential area in Mandera Town on Tuesday, killing 14 people and injuring 11 others.
The attack, similar to another in which 36 quarry workers were massacred last December, raised questions about whether security agencies had learnt any lessons on how to pre-empt attacks in the region where 500 people, mostly Christians and non-locals, have been killed in the past two years.
Thirteen of those who died in the 2am attack carried out near a military camp were quarry workers. A majority of them were also from Nyeri County.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said security agents had no prior information about the attack. He said the attackers sneaked in from Somalia and raided the estate at around 1.30am. They blew up a gate using an improvised explosive device and started shooting indiscriminately once inside.
“The intention of the heinous murderers was to take siege of the quarters with the aim of executing the 150 residents of the estate. However, 136 residents who were facing imminent danger of slaughter by the terrorists were safely evacuated,” he said.
Mr Nkaissery said police officers on patrol engaged the attackers who fled towards Somalia.
“The swift response by the police repelled the attackers … Unfortunately, 11 Kenyans were killed during the attack, while three others succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment,” the CS said in Nairobi.
MANAGED TO ESCAPE
Al-Shabaab has been seeking to clear the region near the Somalia border of non-locals by attacking and killing them in its effort to spread Sharia law.
The raiders took position outside a building hosting non-locals and planted explosives at the entrance before they started shooting.
“Police on patrol responded but the attackers managed to escape by crossing a dry river before disappearing into nearby bushes,” said Mandera County Commissioner Alex ole Nkoyo.
“They shot those who were sleeping outside then followed some of them into their rooms and killed 14 people.”
Also killed was a woman who came out and tried to confront the attackers.
“At the moment, we don’t know exactly how many they were,” said Mr Nkoyo.
Residents said they were awakened by two explosions, followed by heavy gunfire in the middle of the night.
CLOSE TO CAMP
A survivor, Mr David Mungai, said the community of non-locals chose to live in the area because it was close to a KDF camp.
Quarry workers had also been prohibited from sleeping in camps after the December attack.
“We are just next to KDF camp and after we were attacked I thought the soldiers were to come and rescue us after the explosions were hurled at us, but when I looked out through the window I only saw the attackers,” said Mr Mungai.
He said he ran from his room to hide in a Somali woman’s room, a move that he said saved his life.
After the December attack, all quarry workers were directed to rent accommodation in Mandera town. Twenty one of them were sentenced to six months imprisonment with the option of a Sh60,000 fine each for defying the order. The sentence was reversed by a High Court.
On Tuesday, Mr Nkoyo said the attackers had been easily crossing into Kenya, committing crimes, before crossing back into Somalia.
“We have a porous and vast border that is making protecting lives quite difficult, but our security teams are on the alert and the enhanced patrols managed to reduce the number of casualties in these attacks,” he said.
He defended KDF soldiers against allegations that they failed to respond to the attack despite the short distance between their camp and the scene of attack. According to him, the area was inaccessible from the camp.
“Coming here means the soldiers had to cover more than a kilometre,” said Mr Nkoyo.
KDF and the police later launched a joint operation to track down the attackers. It was led by North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Ali Saleh.
In Nairobi, Mr Nkaissery urged Mandera residents to report to security agencies anyone they might come across with bullet injuries.
“It is also the duty of every citizen to remain vigilant and share information that will help us secure our motherland,” he said.