Eleven public servants including eight police officers were on Friday evening shot dead after heavily armed suspected Al-Shabaab militants waylaid a Mandera bound bus in Wajir County.
The 5 pm incident took place between Kutulo and Wargadud in Tarbaj sub-county, when the rag tag militiamen ambushed the majority of passengers travelling from Nairobi to Mandera to resume duties after the annual leave
Preliminary reports into the incident indicated that the militants flagged down the Bus christened Medina and ordered all the passengers to alight before they started grouping them in two sets of locals and non-locals.
Area county commissioner Loyford Kibaara confirmed the killings saying at least seven gunmen forced the bus to stop before sorting out the Christian from the majority Muslim passengers.
He said first batch of eight non local passengers picked among the local travelers were ordered to lie face down before a firing squad and instantly shot in the head prompting nine non locals awaiting the militia vetting to flee for their dear lives in the nearby thickets.
It was at this point that the attackers ordered the majority muslim passengers to get aboard the bus proceed with the journey as they sprayed those escaping into the thickets with bullets.
Kibaara said the bodies of eight passengers shot at close range were recovered at the scene of the attack but three others who sustained bullet wounds while escaping the massacre succumbed to their injuries due excessive bleeding.
He however said six other passengers who managed breakaway from their captives into the bushes amid a hail of bullets were rescued and hospitalized and assured all the missing passengers were accounted for.
“I can confirm that all the 56 passengers in the bus including those that were reported missing have been accounted for. The survivors are all responding well to treatment. We thank God they are all in stable condition and being attended to by a team of doctors,” said Kibaara.
He confirmed that eight of those killed were police officer returning to their work station in Rhamu,Mandera county while two were teachers and a medical doctor.
“It is very unfortunate that we are once again gathered here to mourn the death of innocent Kenyans killed in the hands of these terrorists. Their mission is to divide our communities here between Muslims and the Christians.as a government we will not tolerate that. we will follow them relentlessly until we eliminate them,” he said.
Kibaara further disclosed that the driver and the conductor of the bus were arrested to shed more light on the tragic incident after one of the survivors raised fears that they could be involved in the planning and execution of the attack.
“The survivors have told us that there was a guy who kept on moving from one seat to another and was in constant communication with the conductor and the drivee. all I can assure everybody is that we are on top of things. those involved can run but they cannot hide, we will catch up with them,” he asserted.
Area governor Mohamed Abdi while condoling with the families of those who lost their loved ones urged the local leadership to take drastic actions and engage the communities of areas prone to al shabaab attacks with a view of ‘addressing the matter and come up with solution once and for all’.
“”as leaders we are tired of condemning every other day an incident of this kind happens. this time round we are going back to the drawing board. we cannot allow such malpractices to continue on our oil. let u all cooperate to stem out thi menace that has realy been a thorn in our flesh,” he said.
The bodies of the 11 have since been flown to Nairobi where a postmortem will conducted on their bodies before their next of keen are informed.
Other leaders present included Eldas MP Aden Keynan,Rashid Kasim[Wajir East],Ahmed Bashane[Tarbaj],Ahmed Kolosh[Wajir south and former Governor Ahmed Abdullahi.
Talking to KNA on phone, North Eastern regional commissioner Mohamed Birik confirmed that all the non-locals in the bus were killed. Birik refuted claims that three known locals managed to escape.
There were also unconfirmed reports that some of those killed were police officers who were going back to their work station from leave.
“This is devilish. As a government we will go for them and smoke them out of their hideouts. Our resolve to eliminate this region of this heartless people is never in doubt,” he added.
Birik said that security officers led by a special force was already in the area conducting both ground and aerial serviliance.
“We are pursuing the militants who are said to have escaped back to the neighbouring Somalia on foot,” he noted.
“In the meantime all the three county commissioners and the entire intelligence committees are under instructions to ensure that suitable measures are put in place to ensure that the lives of Kenyans are protected,” he said.
The attack comes barely a month after Al-Shaabab militia attacked Dadajabula Police Station in Wajir in an attempt to free two terrorists who were being held at the station.
Non-locals from Mandera who had planned to travel upcountry and join their families for Christmas have expressed fear of travelling by bus.
By Jacob Songok