Three people were killed and three others seriously injured on Thursday when suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus headed to Lamu from Mombasa.
The attack occurred at Nyongoro, a notorious place for Al-Shabaab attacks targeted at passenger vehicles and security agencies.
The terrorists are said to have tried to forcefully stop the bus but the driver sped off, forcing them to spray the bus with bullets. County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the identity of those killed and injured is yet to be established.
He noted that security officers had been deployed to Nyongoro and the surrounding areas to pursue the attackers.
Transport on the Lamu-Garsen route was disrupted after buses heading to Mombasa from Lamu and vice versa were directed to return to Witu Police Station.
“So far the report I have is that three people have been killed while three others have seriously been injured during the attack which happened around midday. The injured have been rushed to the nearby Witu dispensary.”
“We have deployed enough security officers to pursue the attackers. As a security committee, we’ve decided that transport activities on the Lamu-Garsen route be stopped for some time,” said Mr Macharia.
Nation also established that an unspecified number of passengers in the bus jumped out of the windows and fled to nearby bushes after realising that their vehicle was under attack.
“We have a few passengers who are missing. They jumped through the windows and fled to the nearby bushes. We’re yet to establish their exact number,” said a police source who requested to remain anonymous since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Another passenger identified as Omar Yusuf told Nation that the number of casualties is expected to be higher.
“I don’t think those who died are three. The bus had more than 40 passengers and was sprayed randomly with bullets. It’s unfortunate that the number of deaths and injuries might be higher,” said Mr Yusuf.
Incidents of suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacking passenger vehicles and security agencies are not new on the Lamu-Mombasa route.
On January 13, 2018, a woman was killed and five police officers injured when a group of heavily armed militants attacked two Administration Police vehicles at Nyongoro area.
The police were escorting a convoy of over five passenger buses from Lamu to Mombasa when the incident occurred. The two police vehicles were burnt to ashes.
On July 26, 2018, a police officer was killed and two others injured when their Land Cruiser ran over an improvised explosive device before heavily armed militants shot at the vehicle.
The vehicle had ferried prisoners to Hindi G-K Prison and was returning to Mpeketoni Police Station when it was attacked at Milihoi area, another notorious place for Al-Shabaab attacks and ambushes.
On July 19, 2014, seven people including four administration police officers were killed by Al-Shabaab militants, who ambushed a bus en-route to Lamu from Mombasa at Mambo Sasa Forest in Witu.
The bus was sprayed with bullets by the militants, who were hiding in the nearby bushes.
As a result, the government imposed a ban on night travel among passenger vehicles plying the Lamu-Mombasa route, a directive which exists up to date.
Buses are also required to travel in a convoy escorted by security agencies. Roadblocks were also mounted on the route.
Passengers plying the route are also required to alight at each of the roadblocks for frisking and police checks in a move aimed at containing security on the road.
The then increased attacks and ambushes to passenger and security vehicles on the Lamu-Garsen route also prompted the government in 2018 to set up GSU camps, particularly in all the renowned hotspot areas for Al-Shabaab attacks. The camps were set up in Milihoi, Nyongoro, Mambo Sasa and Lango la Simba.
Thursday’s attack comes at a time when the government is conducting a multi-agency security operation dubbed ‘Linda Boni’ in counties bordering the Kenya-Somalia border including Lamu, Garissa and Tana River.