Kenya announces 'victory' against Al-Shabaab in daring police station attack

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Security forces drawn from multi-agency team repulsed a mid-night raid by the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants at a police station in Mandera North, Kenyan officials have said.

Olla police post was attacked by an unknown number of suspected Al-Shabaab militants in the latest in security incidents in the Northeastern region, officials confirmed.

Located along Mandera-Moyale road, the police post which harbors Administration Police officers plays a key role in checking the movement of vehicles from Mandera.

Police officers engaged the militants for a couple of minutes before they fled to the nearby bushes between Banisa and Rhamu towns, a teacher said.

Al-Shabaab raid repulsed

Onesmus Kathya, Mandera County commissioner, said the attackers targeted a telecommunication mast which they failed to bring down.

“There was heavy exchange of fire and a water bowser which was parked at the police post was destroyed,” the official said without giving finer details.

Mandera has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab militants due to its proximity to Somalia where the militants carry out attacks before escaping back.

The raid at Olla police post is a manifest of how Al-Shabaab has often targeted security forces in an attempt to scare them away from the dangerous region.

Gunmen engaged police for 20 minutes

During the raid, no one was injured. Police officers engaged the gunmen for about 20 minutes before they were overwhelmed and fled away, Jeremiah Kosiom said.

The Mandera police boss told reporters that all four police officers at the site were accounted for, adding that Al-Shabaab militants could have suffered casualties.

He said, “I want to confirm that there was an attempted attack by the militants that flopped."

"All our officers have been accounted for with casualties coming from them since there were traces of blood going towards their escape route in Somalia,” added the official.

Although the traces of the blood could be noticed, the officials could not ascertain casualties on the Al-Shabaab side, he added.

Officers combing the region

Security forces are currently combing the area with KDF's Special Forces expected to join them in pursuit of the armed militants, he said.

The militants sprayed bullets on the Safaricom mast before disappearing from the site when the officers received reinforcement from the nearest posts, the officer confirmed.

Among the regions which the militants are believed to have stormed into after the foiled attack include thickets in Banisa and Rhamu, not far from Somalia.

Elders and chiefs helping security forces

Local chiefs and elders are currently working with the security officers to establish the whereabouts of the militants amid fears that some could have disguised themselves as civilians.

Kosiom said: “We are using the local chief and elders to pursue the militants. We are optimistic about finding them before they cross over to Somalia."

Residents have been urged to cooperate with security forces by giving crucial leads that would help the government thwart Al-Shabaab attacks.

“With the information in our hands, we will be able to prevent would-be attacks. That is why we continue to appeal to locals to be patriotic," he noted.

Attacks targeting security officers

Security forces have been the major target for the Somalia-based militants, with the last five attacks waged against them.

For instance, the attackers raised Soretho Police station in Dadaab early this week but no officer was killed. Three militants were shot dead.

And on Sunday, the militants attacked a US Naval Base in Lamu, killing three American citizens. More elite troops have been deployed in the region.

Eight police officers were killed in December in the neighboring Wajir when the militants ambushed a Mandera-bound bus.

Al-Shabaab a threat to stability

The group has been flagged by UN Panel of Experts as a threat to East Africa stability with reports indicating that they have resorted to mafia-style taxation.

Somalia has not been spared either. On December 28th, the group unleashed on a convoy in Mogadishu killing over 90 people.

In a recent statement, the group said: "we shall continue attacking Kenya and the US until they withdraw their troops from Muslim lands".

While Kenya has deployed over 2,600 troops for the UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia, US, on the other hand, has 500 elite troops in the country.