Gunmen from Somalia, suspected to be members of Al-Shabaab, have literally taken over a village in Lafey, Mandera County.
The presence of the over 30 foreigners has caused fear among villagers, hundreds of whom have left their homes. Four schools, including Gari Boys Secondary School, have also closed down.
On Thursday, students of Gari Secondary School scampered for safety after receiving reports that the gunmen had been spotted on a nearby road.
“A small girl ran into school claiming that she was being chased by armed men who had taken the milk she was taking to the market only for the boys to run into the bush fearing that the militants would attack the school,” said Mr Mahat Adan, the Gari Boys School principal, who has sought refuge in Mandera Town.
Wankara Ward Representative Abdirashid Maalim on Monday said the students had abandoned the school because it is not fenced.
Mr Maalim said the reports sparked an exodus, with villagers seeking refuge in Elwak and Mandera towns.
“The armed men have been roaming between Gari shopping centre and Warankara Town, harassing innocent people and warning them never to pass near their camp or inform the authorities of their presence in the area,” said Mr Maalim.
Mandera Deputy County Commissioner Fredrick Ayieko on Monday said they had received reports on the presence of the foreigners.
[quote]”We have received reports that Shabaabs have crossed into Mandera… We shall give them a chase because we want a secure county,” he said.[/quote]
Mr Maalim said the roaming militants have been engaging residents in talk.
The militants, he said, also carry “a lot of money”, adding that they forcibly buy goats from the locals.
“We are worried that this money could be used to lure these runaway students into terror cells. As we mobilise students to come together in a safe place, we want the government to wake up and do something,” he said.
Darkale Ward Representative Mohamed Mohammed said teachers from other parts of Kenya had vacated Banisa Sub-County, fearing for their lives.
The foreigners, he said, had also blocked the Elwak-Takaba road.
Mr Adan, the Gari Boys School principal, appealed to the national government to beef up security in the area to avoid disruption of the school calendar.
[quote]“Let (the) government secure the area first before we go back, as the Administration Police camp, with only five officers, cannot protect the area,” said Mr Adan.[/quote]