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Garissa terror victim speaks out

07 June 2013, 16:07 Stephen Ingati and Fabian Mangera

Garissa - Omar Khalif, a chief in Kenya's northern town of Garissa, where Somali militants recently killed six people, has described for the first time the grizzly details of the attack in his location.

On May 27, more than 50 heavily armed Al-Shabaab militants carried out simultaneous raids at the two police bases in the northern town of Garissa.

They killed four civilians and two policemen and also abducted another two police officers who are still believed to be in their custody.

Speaking on Thursday at his hospital bed at the Garissa Provincial General Hospital where he is currently admitted, Omar said that the events of that fateful day are still fresh in his mind.

The long serving administrator who was at first reluctant to open up for fear of being targeted by the Al-Shabaab or their sympathizers said that the local authorities had received intelligence reports that the militia were planning to strike, but did not take the reports with the seriousness they deserved.

"There were rumors that these assailants had been spotted crossing into the country from Somalia using donkey carts, but because of lack substantial evidence, we treated the reports as mere hearsay and life went on as usual until that day when they struck my village," a pensive Khalif told Xinhua from his hospital bed.

He said that the militia who came clad in full uniform of the now defunct Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) soldiers surrounded the village while a group went straight to the camps which are 7 km apart.

"I was seated in my office which is located right outside the Administration Police camp unwinding after a long day when suddenly the eerie atmosphere was cut by sounds of gunfire," Khalif recalls.

"In the confusion, I immediately stepped out of my office and started running. The militias were determined to kill me and they ran after me shouting at me calling me an infidel collaborator," Khalif recalled.

"One bullet hit my right leg but I soldiered on up to a nearby house where I dragged myself in and took refuge under the bed."

He said the militiamen who continued reigning terror on the residents for over five hours came looking for him in his house but luckily he had hidden himself in a friend's house.

The administrator said there was confusion and chaos in the restive village as residents ran to hide to save their dear lives.

He condemned the action of the Al-Shabaab to seize parade, condemn and summarily behead a primary school teacher, Zacharia Mwangi whilst forcing the villagers to watch the whole ordeal.

"The impact that is ungodly action is going on our children is monstrous and I only hope and pray it will not negatively impact on their morals when they grow up," Khalif said.

"Since that incident took place, I have had sleepless nights; I can't get the images out of my head. I feel traumatized and I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking that the assailants are coming for me. I don't know for how long this will continue."

His fears are enhanced by reports that there is another major impending attack targeting security installations within the Garissa County by remnants of those behind the Damajaley attacks.

Early this week, area lawmaker Dr. Mohamed Dahiye spoke of an impending attack in Garissa County by persons believed to have carried out the Damajaley attacks and who since then have been roaming freely in the area after the government pulled out all its security forces in the area following the Damajaley incident.

"Just like the other time when the militia issued a warning two weeks before they struck, this time too, they have done the same," Dahire said.

"The government should better treat the threats with the seriousness they deserve otherwise they will be caught flat footed again."

In a quick rejoinder, Dadaab District Commissioner Albert Kimathi refuted claims that the government had pulled security personnel along the border saying that if anything, more had been posted to the area.

"Every administration police post along the border has 30 armed officers led by a sergeant at every camp and they are all well equipped with enough vehicles at their disposal," Kimathi said.

Recently, the government gave out hotline numbers to enable residents to tip the security agencies and inform them of anything concerning security in their area of residence.

Garissa County has borne brunt of retaliatory attacks by Al- Shabaab since Kenya troops crossed over into Somalia in late 2011 following a series of attacks and kidnappings in the country.

The violence dates back to October 2011 when Kenya Defense Forces entered Somalia to fight the terrorist group Al-Shabaab in their territory. Since then dozens of civilians including the police have lost their lives.

Kenyan security personnel patrolling the Somalia border have been hit with a series of explosion attacks since Kenya sent its troops to fight Al-Shabaab inside Somalia, often killing or injuring officers. 


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