NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12 – Kenyan security forces have been mobilized to join in the search for two Cuban doctors abducted from Mandera on Friday morning and taken to Somalia, raising fresh security concerns in the volatile region.
One of the two police officers escorting them to work at the local county hospital was shot dead before they were driven off across the border, according to National Police Spokesman Charles Owino who addressed a news conference after the incident that occurred at 9am.
“All security agencies of the State have been mobilized to pursue the criminals and rescue the victims,” the police spokesperson said.
The two doctors are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services in a deal signed between Havana and Nairobi.
Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade, and while it has lost some ground, it continues to stage deadly attacks.
The focus of the operation has shifted to neighbouring towns across Somalia.
According to police, the militants were boarding two Toyota Probox cars when they waylaid the County Government vehicle ferrying the doctors to work, shot dead the administration officer before abducting them.
It is not yet clear whether the other officer attached to the doctors was injured or not and how he managed to escape.
“We will be able to give more information in the course of the day,” he assured.
– Previous kidnappings –
Al Shabaab terrorists are notorious for targeting foreigners at border towns, having taken off with an Italian aid worker from Lamu in November last year, who is yet to be found.
The Italian was a volunteer working for an NGO within the County.
The terrorists were behind the 2013 attack on Westgate mall that left 67 people dead.
Two years later, on April 2, they attacked Garissa University College, killing 148 people a majority of them being students- this has been termed as Kenya’s worst terror attack.
On January 15, the militants attacked Riverside drive complex killing 21 people.
Kenya Defence Forces are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) engaging Al-Shabaab and though they have been weakened, they still pose a serious security threat to the region.