Blast at Mandera hospital as border clashes rage

North Eastern Provincial Commissioner Mr James ole Serian. A bomb exploded at the Mandera District hospital as heavy fighting continued on Kenya’s border with Somalia and Ethiopia February 24, 2011. The PC said the explosion did not cause casualties. FILE

A bomb exploded at the Mandera District hospital as heavy fighting continued on Kenya’s border with Somalia and Ethiopia Thursday.

The explosion did not cause casualties, said North Eastern provincial commissioner James Ole Serian, but four Kenyans were treated for bullet wounds.

He described the shots as “stray bullets fired by fighting factions across the border in Somalia territory".

“We are not sure who is fighting who because there are so many factions in Somalia. We have not established where the bomb came from.”

He allayed fears of insecurity saying a contingent of Kenya army battalion have been put on standby around Mandera Town to protect residents.

“Our military is on standby along the border with Somalia from border Point One all the way to Kilima Fisi to prevent the fighting to escalate into Kenya and the other centres along the border have been secured up to Hulugo crossing point near Lamu,” said Mr ole Serian.

Border Point One is at the intersection between the three countries.

Another security team comprising Kenya Army’s Rangers and Special Forces detachments, as well as the General Service Unit and Administration Police, is patrolling the vast border.

Two Kenyan soldiers were also expected to be airlifted to Nairobi.

Military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said they suffered injuries after their vehicle was involved in an accident.

He said they were part of a contingent that had been patrolling the border and were driving back to their base.

Four other soldiers “sustained bruises,” he said.

The PC said it had not been established where the bomb came from, saying it landed on a bush within the hospital’s vast land.

“We have ordered our troops to move closer to the border and seal it. The security team is on very high alert to ensure the fighting does not spill over to Kenya,” Mr Ole Serian said.

More than 250 Somali refugees from Bulahawa, a town near the border where combatants allied to the Al-Qaeda network have pitched camp.

The fighting involves the Al Shabaab and Ahlusunna Al-Islam insurgents on one side, against Somali troops returning home after training in Ethiopia.

The fighting has also drawn Ethiopia, with its troops firing missiles to ensure the newly trained troops are successfully deployed in Somalia.

About 2,000 Somali soldiers have been undergoing military training in Ethiopia since late 2009.

Tension was high in Mandera County since Wednesday morning as fears of spill-over of the fighting grip residents of Mandera town.

Businesses in Mandera town remained closed most part of the day.

In past incursions by foreign militants, security officers have either been killed or injured.

The assailants also commandeered Kenyan vehicles to Somalia and held their victims for ransom.  

The Somalia-Kenya border has since been closed and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, last year asked Kenya not to stop refugees escaping the fighting.

According to UNHCR, Kenyan authorities at Border Point One camp at Mandera ordered more than 8,000 Somali refugees to cross back into Somalia last year.

That, according to the agency, has put the lives of the refugees, who are mainly women, children, and the elderly, at risk, because some had crossed into the no-man’s land between Kenya and Somalia.