Efforts underway to rescue kidnapped medical staff in Mandera

Mandera ambulance

An ambulance at Mandera County Referral Hospital on January 31, 2022. Suspected Al-shabaab militants hijacked an ambulance on Tuesday and kidnapped four people in Mandera.

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo I Nation Media Group

Security agencies in Mandera have launched an operation to rescue four people kidnapped on Tuesday evening by suspected Al-Shabaab militants.

The four were taking a patient from Lafey Sub-County Hospital to Elwak when gunmen ambushed them, hijacked the ambulance and drove towards Somalia.

Mandera County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha said the Somalia administration was approached and requested to help rescue the Kenyans.

The victims included two paramedics based at the Lafey hospital, a patient and the driver of the ambulance.

“The incident happened as the team of paramedics were heading to Elwak for medical referral from Lafey. We are not sure what exactly happened, but we suspect Al-Shabaab militants hijacked the vehicle and drove towards Somalia,” Mr Kyatha said.

Herders had reported seeing an ambulance being driven into Somalia, he said.

“We have assembled the necessary machinery and we are in touch with our counterparts across the border and we have made appeals to the Somalia administration and local clan elders to intervene. We are looking forward to getting back both the occupants and the vehicle,” he said.

The four are 40-year-old patient Moulid Abdi, driver Hassan Shaaban, and Lafey hospital staff Abdirashid Billow Hussein and Aden Dai.

The patient had been involved in a road accident in Lafey.

The whereabouts of the four are unknown but Mr Kyatha said they were working through security agencies and local mechanisms to rescue the four and get back the vehicle.

He appealed for calm among the affected families in Mandera.

He insisted that Mandera was safe despite isolated terror incidents.

“We are [working to get] clan elders to cross into Somalia to negotiate the release of the victims and the vehicle. This kind of arrangement has worked in the past and we are hopeful it will work again,” a senior county government officer told Nation.Africa on the condition of anonymity.

Residents of Mandera near the border with Somalia continue to report sightings of armed militants crossing into Mandera.

Last week, a Standard Seven pupil was injured after suspected Al-Shabaab militants hurled explosives into a school in Fino, Lafey sub-county.

Security agencies pursued the attackers, who crossed into Somalia, but locals reported seeing armed men roaming in the area in groups.

Security agencies in Mandera have been on high alert because of an influx of militants following sustained attacks against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia by security agencies and civilians.  

Civilians in Somalia have joined government forces to fight the militants in their towns and villages.

The Kenyan government has urged Mandera residents to provide information on the militants’ activities.