What you need to know:
- Militia foil rescue operation and make it into Somalia
A major operation by the Kenya Navy to rescue a paralysed French woman abducted by suspected al Shabaab gunmen early Saturday was thwarted when the boat carrying her escaped into Somalia.
“Immediately the government learnt of this unfortunate incident, security forces swung into immediate action and pursued the abductors as they sped northwards in a high-speed boat towards Ras Kamboni. In the ensuing shoot-out between the abductors and the Kenya Navy, several of the abductors were injured but managed to enter Ras Kamboni,” Internal Security minister George Saitoti said in a statement.
Ras Kamboni is the southernmost tip of Somalia.
Earlier Tourism minister Najib Balala said 66-year-old Marie Dedieu had been kidnapped from her home on Manda Island opposite Lamu Island.
Sources in Lamu across the channel said 10 armed attackers arrived in a small boat around 3.30 a.m. and abducted the woman.
Ms Dedieu’s caregiver, Zainab Anthony, said six gunmen had entered the compound at Ras Kitau opposite Shela village on Lamu and sealed it off.
“I saw three armed men dressed in military uniform as I was going to the washroom, and I screamed,” she told Sunday Nation by telephone.
“They then ordered me to shut up and threatened to shoot as they went to the main house. One of them asked me: ‘Where is Mama?’”
The screams awoke male workers who were ordered to lie down, and one gunmen was left to guard them as three others entered the house, she said.
Inside the assailants encountered Ms Dedieu and her partner Lapapa ole Moiyoi who had been awakened by the commotion, and ordered him to surrender.
“We pleaded with them not to take her away and said we were ready to give them money, but they refused,” he said, adding that the couple had arrived on the island from Paris two days earlier.
“As they dragged her I tried to wrestle the man who was guarding me. I managed to jump out of the window as he fired two shots but missed,” he said.
The workers said Ms Dedieu was paralysed after being involved in an accident several years ago. They said she was taking medication for her condition.
The assailants struck some of the workers with gun butts during the 30-minute incident.
The gunmen put Ms Dedieu into a waiting boat and sailed into the open sea off Manda Island where the Kenya Navy has a base.
Mr Balala called on Kenyan security forces to enforce a curfew in Lamu waters between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to stop the militia group.
“These militia are denting the image of our country and are putting our security at risk, therefore we need to destroy them,” he said.
The US Embassy in Nairobi said on Saturday it had placed Lamu and adjacent islands off limits to all embassy personnel for non-essential travel for a month.
France on Saturday also officially advised its citizens to avoid travel to the area.
Mr Balala assured visiting tourists that Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast remained safe to visit.
He said security would be beefed up in the Lamu archipelago.
The incident comes just three weeks after gunmen killed Briton David Tebbut and abducted his wife Judith from an exclusive resort on Kiwayu Island, further north in the archipelago towards the Somali border. (READ: Briton killed, wife kidnapped in Kenyan coast)
The woman is still being held in Somalia, and there has not been demand for ransom by abductors. Two suspects have been charged in a Lamu court for having participated in the abduction.