Bandits in Turkana raid despite ongoing KDF, police operation

Police vehicles that were set ablaze by bandits at KWS hotspot area in Kainuk, Turkana County on February 15, 2023

Police vehicles that were set ablaze by bandits at KWS hotspot in Kainuk, Turkana County, on February 15, 2023, in an attack in which four police officers were killed and seven injured.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Bandits in Turkana East Sub County are engaging security officers in a hide-and-seek game following reports of an attempted raid at Lomelo village on Sunday night, and an unconfirmed attack near Lokwii village on Monday evening.

The sub-county is among areas declared as ‘disturbed and dangerous’ following increased banditry attacks, and armed criminals seem to give the security operation a dismissive shrug.

Deputy County Commissioner Saidi Safu Shabaan told Nation on the phone that around 7pm on Sunday, bandits were sighted near Lomelo planning to attack residents of the gated village.

"Security officers from the nearby Rapid Deployment Unit camp successfully repulsed the bandits that retreated to the nearby hills. Nobody at the village was injured and no livestock was stolen," Mr Shabaan said.

On unverified reports of an attack near Lokwii village on Monday evening doing the rounds on social media, he said that due to the remoteness of the area, details will be provided on Tuesday evening from security officers currently undertaking an operation in the area.

Mr Lawrence Lokuruka, a resident of Lomelo, said that the bandits began shooting at the village at around 7pm, forcing the police officers to respond.

"At night between 7- 8pm, there was a fierce exchange of fire between police officers and bandits just like we are used to. I wonder why security is not heightened after reports of a major security operation that was said to have begun," Mr Lokuruka said.

While thanking officers for successfully repulsing the bandits, he called for the urgent deployment of Kenya Defence Forces to boost the officers based at the village.

Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai said increased attacks in remote villages in Turkana East were a result of selective disarmament that targeted the Turkana community, contributing to increased bandit attacks.

Mr Lomorukai said residents of Turkana South and Turkana East had become more vulnerable to attacks by armed bandits as a result of the disarmament that also targeted all National Police Reservists (NPR) in the two sub-counties.

“I don’t know who instituted that disarmament that was extremely selective and only targeted one community. Residents of Turkana South were completely disarmed and now have no defence as bandits dare to raid at any time and take the livestock of our people,” Mr Lomorukai said.

He said that though he supports the joint military and police operation to combat rampant banditry in the North Rift, he called on the security forces to focus on going after the bandits and ensuring that a forceful disarmament drive was enforced equally across the region.

At least 19 illegally held guns had been surrendered by civilians in troubled North Rift counties by Monday as the security operation commenced in most counties. Three of the illegal arms were surrendered by civilians in Turkana county.

A spot check at Kalemngorok, Kaakong, and Kainuk centers in Turkana South Sub County revealed a heavy security presence with an effective dusk-to-dawn curfew.