A mechanic with Makkah Bus Company, whose vehicles ply the Mandera-Nairobi route, is still missing after he was taken hostage during a suspected Al-Shabaab attack last Wednesday.
Mr Julius Keli Mwania, who has operated on the route for more than 10 years, was abducted when the militants ambushed the bus in Jabibar.
Two people were killed in the attack and a lorry set ablaze by the suspected Al-Shabaab militants.
It was reported that all passengers were ordered to disembark before they were profiled.
It was at this point that Mr Mwania was led away by the attackers.
“The mechanic is still missing but the search is on and we believe we shall find him and reunite him with his family,” said Mandera County Police Commander Jeremiah Kosiom.
Mr Mohamed Bardad, the owner of Makkah Bus Company, said all efforts are being made to trace the mechanic.
“We have not seen his body and we remain hopeful that he is still alive as we continue engaging the local community in tracing him from where the incident happened,” said Mr Bardad.
Mr Mwania, popularly known as Mrefu, has been working with the bus company for more than 10 years, according to Mr Bardad.
Herdsmen have been engaged to help find the mechanic, alive or dead.
Suspected Al-Shabaab militants carried out several attacks last Wednesday at the same spot, causing massive damages.
In the first incident, a police vehicle belonging to Takaba Police Station heading to Mandera hit a home-made bomb planted on the road. No one was hurt but the vehicle was extensively damaged.
Shortly thereafter, a Makkah bus travelling from Nairobi to Mandera was ambushed at the same place and the passengers ordered to disembark. The mechanic was taken hostage and the rest released after some of the passengers were beaten up.
Two other vehicles heading to Mandera were attacked but the occupants escaped unhurt.
After a while, a lorry transporting vegetables was stopped at the same spot. The driver and loader were taken away and killed. The lorry was burnt.
A security source told the Nation that Mr Mwania could still be alive considering his skills as a vehicle mechanic and his knowledge of Islam.
“We have intelligence that the mechanic is alive and is being held to be used in repairing the assailants’ vehicles ... his knowledge of Islam saved him too,” said the source.
On April 12, 2019, two Cuban doctors serving in Mandera were abducted, never to be seen again.
Mandera Governor Ali Roba has since accused the police of laxity over the runaway insecurity along main roads in the county.
“These incidents happened in an area where we have plenty of security forces. In fact, they are just 20 minutes away. Al-Shabaab attackers had a field day carrying out their heinous acts for more than three hours undeterred by security forces,” said Mr Roba.
According Governor Roba, the presence of foreign troops from Jubbaland in Mandera has complicated the fight against terrorism.
“Members of the public cannot at the moment differentiate between Jubbaland forces and Al-Shabaab militants because they are all in uniform, moving freely everywhere in our county,” he said.