20 November 2012

Kenya: Curfew in Garissa After Three Officers Shot

GARISSA town was yesterday placed under an unofficial curfew as soldiers conducted a house to house search for the killers of three soldiers early yesterday.

Traffic into and out of Garissa town was stopped and people were ordered to stay inside their homes. The KDF scrambled two planes to track suspected al Shabaab militants who reportedly killed the three soldiers at 1:15 pm yesterday.

The two planes-- from Eastleigh and Laikipia bases-- provided aerial support to the search team on the ground. The missing soldier was found abandoned several kilometers from where he and his colleagues had been attacked.

The soldiers had stopped to change a tyre on their truck at a local garage along Kismayu road next to Midnimo hotel. An eyewitness, who wished to remain anonymous, said four men, two of them armed, approached the soldiers from behind.

"They just aimed at the soldiers and shot them. After this, they brandished a pistol at us and forced us to lie down before they disappeared on foot. They entered a nearby hotel and exited through the back door,"said the eye witness.

The bodies of the dead officers were taken to Garissa provincial general hospital. A senior policeman confirmed that soldiers had "taken over" Garissa town which has borne the brunt of al Shabaab attacks since the KDF entered Somalia in October last year.

"The soldiers are here to conduct a house to house search for guns and other ammunition. They have been joined by GSU who are patrolling the streets," the policeman said.

Yesterday, Dujis MP Aden Duale protested that the army was harassing innocent civilians and said he would organize a demonstration.

"They (al Shabaab) have killed three soldiers and now the army is here beating everyone. We must protest this kind of behaviour," Duale said.

Businesses were hurriedly closed and people were ordered to stay indoors. Journalists were barred from taking photographs of deserted streets and closed shops. No vehicles were allowed to leave or enter the town.

There was intermittent gunfire during the operation. Garissa county commissioner Mohamed Maalim refused to comment. At the weekend two policemen were shot dead at Garissa market where they were on patrol. A pistol belonging to one of the policemen was stolen.

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