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Suspected Somali gunmen hijack vehicles in N Kenya

21 May 2013, 13:32

Mandera - Suspected Somali gunmen on Monday attacked a village in northern Kenya and hijacked two vehicles transporting miraa (khat) as insecurity continues to ravage the restive region.

The divisional police commander, Jackson Rotich, said the vehicles running from Mau to Mandera were hijacked at Arabia along the Mandera-Lafey-Fino road early in the day.

"The two vehicles were blocked by unknown assailant near Arabia trading center before they commandeered and drove away towards the porous border with Somalia after offloading the cargo," Rotich told Xinhua by telephone.

The gunmen estimated to be about ten by eyewitness opened fire on Arabia trading center before waylaying and hijacking the vehicles ferrying the lucrative Mirra to Mandera town at 4:30 a.m. local time.

"The militia were seemingly interested in hijacking the vehicles popular with the Somali militia since they have released the two drivers unharmed and offloaded hundreds of sacks of mirra being transported by the two car before speeding off toward the Somalia border," Rotich said.

He however said the gunmen did not harm the two drivers whom he identified as Issack and Mohammed Abdi who they dropped few meters from where they hijacked the vehicles.

Abdi one of the driver who spoke to the press said the gunmen were heavily armed with automatic weapons.

Rotich told journalists in his office after attending a security meeting that security operation to nab the stolen vehicles were mounted by joint security personnel.

He said the gunmen fired in the air when the Kenya police reservists led by the local chief attempted to pursue them but no one was injured in the shoot out that last for some few minutes.

He said a contingent of security personnel comprising the army, regular and administration police officers had been dispatched to pursue the gunmen who are believed to have crossed towards the Gedo region in the war-torn Somalia.

Rotich said efforts are underway to trace the vehicles through negotiation with authorities in the Somalia side adding that the Somali authorities were helpful in negotiating for return of hijacked Kenya vehicles.

He said the offloaded sacks of miraa were later collected and delivered at to their respective owners in Mandera town.

The police boss said despite the incident, the government assures the local people of their safety and that f their safety.

"Somali Islamic militia uses Land Cruiser in mounting heavy weapons and usually impact on hijacking when they are preparing to carry out an assault to reclaim some towns," said Hassan Yussuf, a Somali resident in the border town of Bulla-Xawa.

Since Kenya sent troops to Somalia to fight against the Al- Qaida linked group of Al-Shabaab in October 2011, it has launched a series of attacks in retaliation in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Dadaab in northern Kenya in retaliation.

- Xinhua

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