Public transport was on Sunday morning suspended in Mandera, [northeastern Kenya], over what police termed as terror threat.
Mandera County Police Commander Jeremiah ole Kosiom said: “We received information that suspected Al-Shabaab militants, who were targeting public transport, had been sighted along the Mandera-Rhamu-Elwak road on Sunday.”
Mr Kosiom said security agencies needed time to respond before public transport vehicles are allowed back to business.
Buses plying the Mandera-Nairobi route were the most affected with hundreds of passengers stranded.
“I blame the security officers for failing to communicate on time, we could have used alternative means of transport,” said Mr Adan Ali, a passenger.
“I was sure of being in Nairobi on Tuesday morning to attend to my business but now that cannot happen,” said Ms Khalif.
Buses including Makka, Moyale Liner, Salaam and Madina remained parked in the town after police stopped them from leaving the town on Sunday morning.
Mr Kossiom appealed for calm as the security officers combed Bambo, Chabi-bar, Selukatiffa, Rhamu and Elwak areas.
“Our officers are already on the ground to ensure that all is well before the public transport resumes,” said Mr Kosiom.
Chairman Mandera Bus Owners Association Mohamed Farah Bardad said the security agencies had consulted them before the suspension.
“Mandera Bus Owners Association is aware of the suspension and we are supporting it because we want to operate in a secure environment. Our services shall resume immediately police assures us of the security on the road,” said Mr Bardad who also blamed the police for sharing information late.
“We have customers who were going to attend to important activities out of Mandera, we were only informed this morning that they could not travel. In future, information should be shared early enough to enable people make alternative transport arrangements,” he said.
Mr Kosiom said that buses coming into Mandera from Nairobi and Wajir will remain in Elwak town until the situation normalises.
The suspension comes amid security reports that Al-Shabaab militants were planning retaliatory attacks after their camp was raided last weekend.
During last weekend’s ambush on Shabaab camp at Dawaduba, a police reservist was killed. One militant was also killed and a firearm recovered.
The police boss said that his office was aware of the planned revenge attack in Mandera.
“We are aware of a plan to carry out a revenge attack but I dare them to come, we are ready for them,” Mr Kosiom said.
The militants are said to have warned Lafey sub-county residents of dire consequences for reporting their activities to security agencies.
Intelligence report shared on Thursday [6th June] showed at least a group of 40 al-Shabaab militants had crossed into Mandera County’s Lafey area.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that the militant group has given an ultimatum that they want weapons recovered from them in Dawaduba returned within the next 24 hours or they will vent their anger on the local community within Lafey Sub-county,” reads the security report.
The report warned senior security officers against ignoring the threats since police reservists from Lafey were at the forefront in the recent successful operation to flush out the Al-Shabaab from Dawaduba.
A local chief said already locals of Wante and Daba villages were relocating to safer areas.
SOURCE: Daily Nation