20 July 2014

Kenya: Curfew Imposed in Lamu As Policemen Killed in Ambush

A dusk to dawn curfew has been declared in Lamu a day after seven people, including four policemen, were killed.

Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo last evening announced the ban as security agencies grapple with runaway insecurity in the county for the last one month.

Mr Kimaiyo announced the curfew - which takes effect this evening - hours after Coast regional coordinator Samuel Kilele slapped a similar ban on public transport vehicles on the Garsen-Witu-Lamu highway.

"Due to the rising insecurity in Lamu County I do hereby issue curfew orders within Lamu County from July 20 2014 to August 2014 from 6.30p.m. to 6.30a.m.," Mr Kimaiyo announced in his Jogoo House office.

He added, "Every person residing within Lamu County is directed to remain indoors during the period the curfew order is in force except under and in accordance with the terms and condition of a written permit granted by the police county commander."

"To enforce the order there will be a commensurate increase in security personnel," Mr Kimaiyo said. He also declared Boni and adjoining forests as prohibited areas and any person found in the there will be treated as a hostile suspect and apprehended forthwith.

All public transport vehicles in Lamu and Garsen will only be allowed to move under police escort and that officers would offer security for schools and other vital installations in the county, Mr Kimaiyo said. He directed that all police officers currently on leave should report back to their stations immediately, the IG said.

On Friday night, heavily armed attackers described as youthful and bearded, sprayed a bus christened Tahmeed with bullets at 7p.m., near Mambo Sasa forest in Witu division. The 45-seater Lamu-bound bus had left Malindi at 4p.m.

In a related incident, a soldier involved in the Lamu security operation was killed on Saturday when a KDF driver lost control of their vehicle at Mkunumbi area. Two others were seriously injured while five were slightly injured.

Among the dead

In the Friday attack, the bus driver, four policemen, a nurse at the Hindi hospital and the driver of a Toyota Probox thought to have been commandeered are among the dead. Eight people were injured, including a policeman who was taken to Malindi Hospital - more than 100 kilometres away from the scene - to have a bullet lodged in his abdomen removed.

The bus conductor, Mr Kassim Hamadi, 30, is admitted to the Mpeketoni sub-district hospital after being shot in the leg.

Speaking to the Sunday Nation from his hospital bed, Mr Hamadi said that as the bus passed the National Youth Service base at Witu on its way to Lamu, he spotted a white Probox car in the middle of the road. Two armed men, who he initially thought were police officers, were standing on either side of the road.

"The two suddenly started shooting in the air and they ordered the driver to make a U-turn. As he was reversing, they started shooting at the bus," Mr Hamadi said.

He said the gunmen then ordered the driver to get out of the bus and shot him dead.

"They stopped shooting after a while and started flagging down other vehicles. The occupants of three private vehicles were robbed of their money and other personal belongings but they were not harmed," he said.

Mr Hamadi said the attackers were young men who spoke Somali and Swahili. A Land Cruiser belonging to the police was sprayed with bullets as it approached the scene with more gunmen emerging from the bush.

Saturday, Lamu County Commissioner Njenga Miiri said, "A border patrol police vehicle that was passing by managed to spot the bus. That is when a fierce gun battle ensued during which six people died on the spot."

Another survivor, Simon Mbaji Kitole, 44, a resident of Mtwapa, was shot in the right leg above the knee.

Ms Josephine Kombe, who was travelling with her husband, said the attack lasted for about 15 minutes and the arrival of police helped save their lives.

"When we saw that a car had blocked the road, we pleaded with the driver to reverse but it was too late. My husband was shot in the arm and bled to death because of the distance to the hospital," said Ms Kombe.

Other victims with less serious injuries were taken to Witu Health Centre.

Yesterday, the Kenya Red Cross Lamu branch officer Abdikadir Mohamed said the dead were taken to Mpeketoni sub-district hospital mortuary.

The driver of the ill-fated bus is said to have been new to the road and the journey to Lamu was his first, having been recently recruited from another bus company. Nobody had been arrested by the time of going to press. "Officers are hunting down the criminals. But I have confirmed that among those received at the mortuary are three Administration Police officers," said an officer who did not want to be named.

This is the latest in a series of attacks launched by marauding killer gangs in Lamu and neighbouring Tana River counties that have for the last one month, left blood, tears and destruction in their wake.

The attacks have continued despite the increased presence of security forces and repeated assurances from President Uhuru Kenyatta that the government was in control.

International news agencies Saturday reported that the Somali-based Al-Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the attack just as they did in Mpeketoni last month and in subsequent attacks in Tana River.

President Kenyatta and his top security chiefs have, however, blamed politics for the violence.

Condemn attack

Human rights campaigner Hussein Khalid condemned the killings and called for the overhaul of security chiefs.

"If indeed the Kenya Defence Forces is serious, how can hundreds of their officers with helicopters, jets and sophisticated weapons be outsmarted by a group of militia who attack at will?" said the Haki Africa executive officer.

On Thursday, there were reports that KDF had destroyed forest training camps, but no evidence has been shown of the operation.

And earlier in the week KDF spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir tweeted that the military was dealing "with the cowards" at Boni forest.

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