Al-Shabaab fighter surrenders in Mandera hours after bus attack
MANDERA, Kenya - An Al-Shabaab fighter has surrendered to Kenyan authorities on Thursday, officials said, in a dramatic incident that buoys the fight against violent extremism.
Salat Hajir Jimale, 23, surrendered to security agencies at Elwak town in Mandera South, authorities said, precisely 14 hours after a bus attack in the region.
A report by the police booked under OB number 10/20/2/2020 shows that the fighter, who was in military fatigue, was booked at El-Wak Police Station in Mandera Central
“It was reported by Assistant Chief, Bulla Afya, Muhammed Abdullahi that a suspected Al-Shabab fighter was sighted within his area while making efforts to surrender,” the police report read.
Onesmus Kyatha, the Mandera County Commissioner, said the suspect was detained for further interrogation by the authorities in the region.
However, he did not give immediate actions that the police could take after an interaction. Kenya does not have a law that protects defectors.
"Al-Shabaab member with an AK 47 rifle and three magazines fully loaded is in our custody," he said, without giving many details.
But according to a source within the police, the suspect was sighted by a local chief within the vicinity of El Wak before he was arrested.
"It was reported by a chief that a suspected Al-Shabaab militant was sighted in his area while making efforts to surrender," the source said.
According to the preliminary report, the militant hails from the Ashabito area in Rhamu within Mandera North and it's unclear why he had traveled several miles southwards.
Unlike in the past, Mandera North has been witnessing several Al-Shabaab attacks, raising eyebrows given its traditional quiet environment.
On Wednesday, a passenger bus playing the Mandera-Moyale route was attacked by suspected militants along the Banisa area, 200 kilometers West of Mandera town, leaving four people dead.
The incident was the first major tragedy within Mandera North and Banisa areas, which have enjoyed relative peace given the big distance from troubled Kenya-Somalia border.
But since then, authorities in the region have strictly advised buses plying the route to ensure they are accompanied by security forces, failure to which they will have their licenses revoked.
North-Eastern Regional Commissioner Nick Ndalana said the order must be enforced in order to avert the growing cases of attacks against passenger buses.
“Following the attack reported in Mandera county, all owners of buses plying the attack-prone areas will be required to have their buses escorted by police or they will have their licenses revoked,” Mr. Ndalana said.
The suspect could be handed over to Anti-Terror Police Unit [ATPU], who is in charge of intelligence gathering on matters pertaining to terrorism, a source said.
Al-Shabaab based in Somalia has staged deadly attacks in Kenya since Nairobi sent combat troops to the country in 2011 after a series of kidnappings against the foreign aid workers.