Attackers suspected to be members of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebel group in Somalia have abducted two paramedics, a driver and a patient near Kenya’s border with Somalia, police said.
The attackers ambushed an ambulance belonging to the regional county government of Mandera, in the country’s northeast, as it transported the patient to a hospital in the county.
“[The] ambulance (was) en route to Elwak hospital for referral with a patient… in the company of hospital staff,” Mandera’s Lafey police station said in a report late on Tuesday.
“They were carjacked by suspected AS (al-Shabab) militia and driven towards Somalia … They are not in communication now due to network issues.”
While the frequency and severity of al-Shabab attacks in Kenya have diminished in recent years, the group has in the past targeted security personnel, schools, vehicles, towns and telephone infrastructure in northeastern and eastern Kenya as part of their campaign to pressure the latter into withdrawing its forces from Somalia.
Kenyan troops are part of the African-Union-mandated peacekeeping force ATMIS that is helping defend Somalia’s central government from al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab has been fighting for more than a decade to topple Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
On Saturday, twin car bomb attacks killed at least 100 people in the Somali capital. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombings.
In 2015, al-Shabab attackers killed 166 people at Garissa University in eastern Kenya, while in another attack at a mall in Nairobi in 2013, the group killed 67 people.
The group has been under pressure in Somalia since August when newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud began an offensive against them, supported by the United States and allied local militias, in a bid to disrupt their financial network.
On Tuesday, the US issued sanctions on a number of the group’s members.