Panic has gripped the teaching fraternity in Garissa County after suspected Al-Shabaab militants stormed staff quarters of Kamuthe primary school in Fafi sub-county and shot dead three non-local teachers.
The incident comes barely a week after the militants shot and killed four pupils of Saretho boarding primary school in Dadaab sub county.
Following the incident, the county education board through the County Director of Education, Issack Khalif has withdrawn all non-local’s teachers from the two sub counties.
During the attack that occurred at around 2 am, the militants who seemed to know their way around split themselves into three groups with one heading to the Safaricom mast, the second to the nearby police post and a third unit went for the teacher’s quarters inhabited by non-locals.
After blowing up the Safaricom mast and cutting off communications to area, the other two groups proceeded with their mission ‘undeterred’.
The group that went for the teachers’ residence fired several rounds at a two-roomed house where they shot at close range and killed the three teachers whom we cannot name until their next of kin are notified.
A fourth victim one escaped with gunshot injuries in the hip and the leg. Each room was occupied by two teachers.
According to Robert Abraham, one of the lucky teachers who also survived the attack and who was sleeping in an adjacent house, he said h was woken up by the volley of gun shots.
“I jumped out of the bed and on opening the door I heard gun shots from the direction my colleagues were residing. I started running towards the nearby bushes but realized I had forgotten my cell phone. I dashed back into the house and as I came out the militants were heading in my direction started firing at me,” Abraham said.
“I run towards the nearby bushes with the militants hot in pursuit. I thank God I managed to outrun them and none of the bullets they aimed at me got me. After chasing me for about 200 meters they gave up,” the visibly shaken teacher added.
He hid in the bushes until around 6 am when he came back to the compound.
Another group also chased down the other male teacher, Joshua Mutua who escaped with bullet wounds and hid in the bushes until this morning when he was rescued and rushed to the Garissa referral hospital. His condition remains stable, according to the medics who received him.
The group that went for the police camp completely destroyed the housing block that also serves as an office by lobbing explosives inside. None of the six police officers was injured and have all been accounted for.
In a rare show of mercy, the militants spared the lives of three female teachers and a nurse who were meters away from the scene of the attack.
Ann Gedion, a female teacher said the militants knocked on their doors and asked if they had children.
“When we replied yes, they just walked away, saying we are not interested in you. I almost collapsed when they turned their back on us. God spared our lives but on the other hand we are really saddened by the deaths of our colleagues,” Ann said.
The militants also went to the nearby health facility and on meeting the nurse who was with her child, they likewise spared her life and left. The attackers disappeared into the nearby thicket.
Abdi Nasir, the schools head teacher whom the militants seem to have also targeted survived because he had taken his daughter to join Saka secondary school yesterday. The militants sprayed hundreds of bullets at his house door shattering it.
The school that has 380 pupils and 11 teachers (eight of them non-locals), has been closed indefinitely.
And, addressing the press at his office, the North Eastern Regional Commissioner (RC), Nicodemus, Ndalana, said that there was conspiracy between the locals and the militants in the Kamuthe attack.
“How can the militants walk all the way from the border which is over 100 kilometres away to Kamuthe without the involvement of the locals? It’s not possible!” Ndalana said.
“We are declaring war on the Al-Shabaab and their operatives. We have come up with an operational plan that we believe will be able to deal with this menace once and for all,” he added.
Ndalana who once worked as the regional intelligence officer for North Eastern region between 2009 and 2010 said that he will be meeting with elected leaders from the region to chart the way forward on ‘how we can collectively fight terrorism and restore security in the region’.
A team of security officers have been dispatched to the area and are pursuing the militants numbering about 20. The bodies of the deceased are lying at the Garissa referral hospital for postmortem before they are flown to Nairobi and handed over to their families.
By Jacob Songok