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Kenya: Travellers Shun Buses After Al-Shabaab Raid in Lamu

The terror attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militants on passenger buses at Nyongoro on the Lamu-Garsen Road has shattered the trust that travellers had on the road.

Jan 5th 2020 ยท 2 min read
Kenya: Travellers Shun Buses After Al-Shabaab Raid in Lamu

The terror attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militants on passenger buses at Nyongoro on the Lamu-Garsen Road has shattered the trust that travellers had on the road.

The attack occurred last Thursday at around 12.30pm and claimed the lives of three people and left three others injured.

Witnesses told the Nation that six heavily armed men wearing civilian clothes forcefully stopped a convoy of Mombasa Raha, Simba Coach and TSS buses that were headed to Lamu from Mombasa.

The Mombasa Raha bus driver Raymond Juma Kahindi sped off but their vehicle was sprayed with bullets by the terrorists. No one was injured or killed in that vehicle.

Simba Coach and TSS buses had to stop and passengers, including men, women and children were ordered out of the vehicles and asked to lay on the ground.

The terrorists then demanded each passenger produce their ID cards, with some asked to identify their religion and even recite 'Shahada,' a tenet of the Muslim faith.

"Some of the passengers, including my turn boy and two other men who couldn't recite the Islamic creed were shot at close range. All this happened in 10 minutes before the attackers fled after security agencies came to our rescue," said Mr Athman Salim, the conductor of Simba Coach.

SECURITY MEASURES

Despite the fact that Lamu is known for its security concerns especially for road travellers, the attack came as a shock to many who have enjoyed peace and stability on the route.

Between 2014 and 2017, the Lamu-Garsen route witnessed frequent ambushes by Al-Shabaab militants who preyed on security and public transport vehicles plying the road.

Hordes of security personnel and civilians lost their lives on the route.

The national government was forced to introduce a night travel ban on July 19, 2014 after seven people, including four administration police officers, were killed by Al-Shabaab terrorists who ambushed a Tahmeed bus en route to Lamu from Mombasa at Mambo Sasa Forest in Witu.

Public service vehicles were instead directed to travel in a convoy that is normally accompanied by armed police escort, an arrangement that is still practised to date.

The government also established General Service Unit (GSU) and Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camps in renowned notorious hotspots.

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They include areas around Gamba, Nyongoro, Lango la Simba, Mambo Sasa and Milihoi.

This built more confidence among the road users with many who had previously opted to travel by air for fear of their security now using the road.

LOST BUSINESS

Drivers and bus company owners said the recent attack has made them lose business.

"Since Thursday, we've lost many passengers who now prefer flying to Malindi and Mombasa instead of using the road," said Mr Swaleh Salim.

Mrs Anne Njeri, a frequent user of the Lamu-Garsen route, told the Nation that she finds it hard to believe that they are secure on the road.

"I now prefer using air transport since you're guaranteed of your security there," said Ms Njeri.

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elungata on Friday said security agents, including Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, had been deployed to Nyongoro and along the road for a major operation in search of the killers.

He however stressed the need for police escorts.

"We insist on the need for bus companies and other passenger vehicles to adhere to movement restrictions, including travelling in a convoy escorted by police. We have a full escort schedule. All vehicle owners must adhere to the prescribed procedure," he said.

last updated: 2020-01-06@12:01