Three Kenya Defence Forces soldiers were shot dead and their rifles stolen in Garissa on Monday.
The soldiers had flown to Garissa from Kismayu, Somalia, and were supposed to go to Liboi by road when they were attacked.
A senior KDF officer, who sought anonymity because he is not the military spokesman, said a group of gunmen struck as the soldiers were unbolting the punctured tyre, shooting them at point-blank range.
The five soldiers were attacked near Garissa Primary School. The truck’s tyre had a puncture as the contingent was moving to Sector II in Somalia.
The source said that it was impossible for the other three to return fire immediately without causing collateral damage.
The attack happened at midday and the soldiers later succumbed to their injuries.
Consequently, several people were injured and property, including a three-storey hotel, were razed in a joint operation by the KDF and the police.
The security agents allegedly set on fire the market situated along Kismayu Road, but the fire extended to a hotel belonging to Garissa businessman Mahat Kuno Roble.
Residents told the Nation that in the previous attacks, the attackers always escaped to the market and they suspected that could have been the reason why the military decided to clear the structures.
By yesterday evening, the entire town was completely deserted as the security agents patrolled the streets.
Activities within the town were brought to a standstill, including voter registration that began on Monday.
Buses from Nairobi to Garissa were not allowed to enter the troubled town.
North Eastern police chief Philip Tuimur said on Monday night that the military had withdrawn from the operation as police continued with the hunt for the attackers.
The officers stormed hotels in the town and removed the guests for interrogation. Everyone was rounded up and ordered to produce their identification documents.