Daring bandits continue staging attacks in Turkana and Baringo counties despite the ongoing security operation to mop up illegal firearms in the restive region.
In a brazen Wednesday evening attack, dozens of bandits ambushed Kenya Defense Forces and police officers in Kainuk and engaged them in a fierce shoot-out.
However, the security officers managed to repulse the armed bandits.
Confirming the incident, Rift Valley regional Commissioner Dr Abdi Hassan revealed that at least two bandits have been arrested in Kainuk, following the attack.
"On Wednesday heavily armed bandits attempted to ambush KDF and police who are currently conducting a security operation in Kainuk, Turkana South. However, the bandits were repulsed," revealed Dr Abdi,who addressed the press at his office in Nakuru.
"We have been able to arrest two bandits in Turkana following the incident and security officers also recovered one firearm," he added.
Tension is still high at Kainuk town near the border of Turkana and West Pokot Counties after residents spotted armed bandits suspected to be on a revenge mission after they were repulsed by KDF and police officers near the bridge.
Locals suspect the bandits are regrouping in their numbers after some of them were either killed, injured or their firearms are taken away during the Wednesday encounter with police and soldiers at Kainuk bridge.
Ms Shirleen Akolong, a trader said that the bandits were by 11 am still gathering at Amolem village, which they usually occupy after they forcefully displaced residentsand in between River Malimalite and the lower side of the town that has a thicket.
"We are in great fear as we have never spotted such a big group of armed bandits," Ms Akolong said.
On Wednesday, the town remained deserted as police officers and KDF soldiers came in contact with bandits near the bridge and at Amolem village.
County Commissioner Jacob Ouma said that the multi-agency security team on usual patrol targeting any civilian brandishing illegal firearm came into contact with the daring bandits.
Kainuk residents said that before the operation began, the bandits and livestock traders from neighboring West Pokot County would either roam freely in town and villages, but at the moment it is not easy to spot one.
Residents said that despite the ongoing multi-agency security operation, the bandits had resorted to hide-and-seek games with the officers, a situation that is causing great panic in the area.
"When there is an exchange of fire between bandits and officers as well as local intelligence on an impending attack, we close shops and all other activities and lock ourselves in houses. We fear that they can resort to arson attacks if they won't be flushed out," said Margaret Arot, a resident.
Herders, too she said can't freely drive their livestock to the river, with motorists and passengers still not making stopovers at the town or deciding to wait until they are assured of their security.
Mr Ouma said that when the officers sighted the armed bandits between 10 and 11 am at Kainuk bridge, there was an exchange of fire, but the bandits were successfully repulsed.
"We have no casualties on the side of officers anywhere in Turkana by Wednesday night. One officer who broke his leg while running from the battlefield was treated at Kainuk and referred to Lodwar County and Referral Hospital for specialized services," the county commissioner said.
He issued a stern warning to civilians against brandishing illegal firearms saying the multi-agency team was currently dealing with such civilians forcefully and decisively.
He said the arrival of KDF soldiers on the ground was a reliable backup to officers from various police units that include General Service Unit and Anti-Stock Theft Unit plans for a successful operation.
County Police Commander Samwel Ndanyi said that he is currently on the ground, dismissing reports of police deaths doing rounds on social media as rumors.
Dr Abdi also refuted reports that security officers have been killed in the ongoing joint KDF-police operation to flush out bandits from six counties.
Dr Abdi further revealed that a total of twenty-three firearms have been surrendered voluntarily to security officers, mainly in Samburu and Turkana counties.
"Twenty-three firearms have been surrendered voluntarily mainly in Samburu and Turkana Counties. We urge more residents to surrender illegal firearms on their hands. However, we are not going to extend the amnesty," said Dr Abdi.
However, this is not the only raid that bandits have staged despite the ongoing security operation.
On Sunday suspected Pokot bandits struck Chemorongion village in Baringo South and Lomelo in the neighbouring Turkana East.
However, security officers deployed in the region managed to repulse the armed bandits after a fierce shoot-out and recovered hundreds of animals that they had stolen.
Baringo Country Commissioner revealed to the Nation that more security personnel have been deployed to the region to restore calm.
"We have deployed more officers to the region and l want to tell residents that we are in control of the situation," said Mr Abdirisack Jaldesa.
Living in fear
Meanwhile in Kainuk and Turkana South, residents are still living in fear as armed bandits roam freely especially near Kainuk bridge and Amolem village despite the ongoing security operation.
According to residents, gunshots from daring bandits still rent the air as they engage police officers and KDF soldiers in a hide and seek game in the areas.
"We are being threatened by the bandits' hide and seek game as most of us who have farms near Kainuk bridge can't access them for fear of being targeted. Herders can't freely drive their livestock to the river with motorists and passengers still not making stopovers at the town," Ms Margaret Arot said.
She said that on Wednesday the town remained deserted as police officers and KDF soldiers came in contact with bandits near the bridge and at Amolem village.
County Commissioner Jacob Ouma said that the multi-agency security team on usual patrol targeting any civilian brandishing illegal firearm came into contact with the bandits.
Mr Ouma said that when the officers sighted the armed bandits between 10 and 11 am, at Kainuk bridge, there was exchange of fire, but the bandits were successfully repulsed.
"We have no casualties on the side of officers anywhere in Turkana by Wednesday night. One officer who broke his leg while running from the battlefield was treated at Kainuk and referred to Lodwar County and Referral Hospital for specialized treatment," he said.
He issued a warning to civilians against brandishing illegal firearms as the multi-agency team was currently dealing with such civilians forcefully and decisively.
He said arrival of KDF soldiers on the ground was a reliable backup to officers from various police units that include General Service Unit and Anti Stock Theft Unit who plans for a successful operation.
Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome landed at Kainuk Anti Stock Theft Unit on February 14, 2023 amid tight security a day after President William Ruto directed the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to start an operation to weed out bandits in the area.
This was after bandits attacked police officers near Kainuk town along Kitale - Lodwar highway killing four and injuring seven. The bandits also torched four vehicles that were being used by the security officers.