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Police, soldiers hunt suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists after raid

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KALUME KAZUNGU
MOHAMED AHMED

A contingent of security personnel was on Wednesday deployed to hunt suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists who killed three police officers and razed a police station.

In the Wednesday 5am incident at Pandanguo village, Lamu West Sub-County, the attackers commandeered a police vehicle and burnt a communication mast.

A fourth officer sustained “serious injuries” while another was missing, said National Police Service spokesman George Kinoti.

He added that 14 others survived the attack unhurt.

TERRORISTS KILLED

Mr Kinoti also said an unknown number of terrorists was killed following hours of counter-attacks launched by reinforcement teams.

 

The statement was dispatched at 5:20pm, suggesting that the security officers were still pursuing the terrorists 12 hours after the attack.

A separate source, however, said six officers were seriously injured.

VILLAGERS MISSING

“An unknown number of officers and villagers are missing,” said the source. “Some of the injured persons have been taken to Witu Hospital.”

Coast police bosses declined to divulge more information, with regional deputy police commander Akello Odhiambo only saying: “We cannot give much information as per now.

“Our team is on the ground.”

The director of Operation Linda Boni, which is under way in Lamu County, said a sizeable number of unidentified people suspected to be Al-Shabaab attacked the police station at around 5:30am.

OFFICERS DISPATCHED

Mr James ole Seriani said security officers — including Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers and officers drawn from the Kenya Police, Administration Police and other units — were dispatched to the ground to pursue the raiders.

Pupils from Kakate, Maleli, Rehema, Furaha, Sendemke and Soroko primary schools said they had been asked to vacate the institutions after the attack.

Mr Seriani said the missing included villagers who fled immediately after the attack. He said there were no reports of death or injury so far but he would give details after the manhunt.

“We have sent enough reinforcement on the ground to deal with the culprits,” said Mr Seriani, adding that the villagers were reportedly hiding in the thick bushes and would return once the situation calmed.

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

Construction workers at Pandaguo Primary School narrated their ordeal.

Mr Muthui Mukiti, Mr Shaffy Bulo and Mr James Musingili said they locked themselves in a classroom and remained silent as the terrorists torched a nearby communication mast.

“We heard huge blasts and saw the mast being reduced into a shell,” Mr Mukiti told journalists in Witu, some 20 kilometres from Pandaguo, last evening. “About 40 Al-Shabaab were guarding the mast as it burnt while about 30 were outside the classroom where we were hiding.”

The workers, who were rebuilding a classroom torched by the terrorists last year, only managed to flee to safety at 7:30am after the attackers had left.

ALERTED SOLDIERS

“We crouched in the tall grass until the KDF arrived,” said Mr Mukiti.

The three alerted the soldiers that a police vehicle that had been commandeered had got stuck.

READ: Eight killed as police vehicle runs over explosive

The attackers, they said, seemed not to be in a hurry.

“They were both young and old men and some spoke fluent Kiswahili,” said Mr Bulo.

MILITARY JACKETS

“They wore military jackets and civilian trousers and were heavily armed.

“They divided themselves in groups of 30 to 40. They were about 300. I have never stared at death like that.”

He said the attackers only left after they saw armoured personnel carriers arriving.

Only a week before, four police officers and four pupils were killed when a police lorry they were travelling in ran over an explosive suspected to have been planted by Al-Shabaab on the Basuba-Kiunga road at Mararani in Lamu East.

Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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