LAMU, Kenya (Xinhua) — At least one civilian was killed and unknown number of police officers injured after suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists ambushed a convoy of commuter buses in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region on Saturday.
Mwenda Njoka, the Ministry of Interior spokesman, confirmed the incident, saying the buses were from Lamu en route to Malindi and Mombasa when the militants struck at around 11 a.m. local time.
“There was an exchange of fire between the security team that was escorting the buses and the attackers during which one civilian was shot dead and some police officers suffered injuries,” Njoka said in a statement.
He said two police vehicles were damaged during the exchange of fire.
Witnesses said the the destroyed police vehicle was traveling ahead of early morning scheduled commuter buses which was escorting from Lamu when the police officers were ambushed with their vehicle being destroyed by the militants during the gun exchange.
“Security agents who were in another police escort vehicle which was behind buses was however able to thwart the attackers after a 30-minute gun battle exchange,” said a resident who declined to be named.
He said the buses were however not caught in the crossfire with the travelers able to proceed with their journey safely from Lamu.
But Njoka said it was still not clear how many attackers were killed or injured during the incident which occurred in Nyongoro area between Gamba and Lango la Simba.
According to Njoka, a contingent of security officers comprising of airborne and ground troops was dispatched from Boni Operation Centre immediately after the attack happened.
“Swift action by the security team ensured that the buses drove past the ambush area safely and without further casualties. By this afternoon, the operation to sanitize the area was still going on,” Njoka said.
It is now feared that the Nyongoro area is now an operational hotspot for Al Shabaab militants due to the poor network road in the area that forces vehicles to slow down thus making it easier to lay an attack for unknowing road users.
The Somali militants have changed tactics and resorted to abductions and using improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks in parts of Coast region and northeastern Kenya, according to police.
The police say the explosive devices strategically planted along the roads near Kenya-Somalia border are slowing down security operations to flush out militants hiding in the vast Boni forest, which is near the Somali border.