Somalia: Queries over police cars’ safety

Eighteen Administration Police (AP) officers have been killed in the line of duty on the border of Kenya and Somalia in the last one week.

This brings to question the suitability of the equipment, training and deployment of security officers in the country. Seventeen of the officers were killed in terror related attacks, making this the largest number of police officers killed by Al Shabaab in one week along the volatile border since the 2011 incursion into Somalia.

One officer was killed by bandits in West Pokot County. All but one of those killed are members of the elite AP’s Rural Border Police Unit (RBPU) who are the country’s last bastion of defence along the border with lawless Somalia.

Only in one of the instances were the officers travelling in an armoured vehicle, which should have made the attack bearable but did not. In two of the cases, the officers were in Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles with no protection from landmines, improvised explosive devices (IED) or bullets. Last year, Kenya acquired the Norinco VN4 armoured personnel carriers from China to specifically protect security agents from landmine and IED attacks.

The security officers are therefore expected to travel in armoured vehicles at all times to protect them from attacks by the insurgents. But the question is; how safe and protective are armoured personnel carriers? In one of the attacks, the armoured car was completely destroyed.

But AP spokesman Masood Munyi Saturday attributed the death of the officers to their mandate as first responders to emergency cases in volatile and remote areas. “It is not a question about their training or equipment. They are among the best trained in the region. Seventeen officers in one week is not a small number.

It is because they are deployed in remote and volatile areas like North Eastern, Upper Eastern and Coast where they are the first responders in case of any emergency,” said Munyi.

“They sacrifice their lives to address insecurity within our borders, especially in far-flung areas.” He said the RBPU and the Rapid Response Unit (RDU) are the key units deployed in such areas. Munyi said the officers have good equipment, thanks to the government’s modernisation programme. He said in many instances, officers have been aware that their lives are in danger but they choose to confront the threats and put their lives in danger to secure the country.

Munyi said the public should support the security agencies and the government in ensuring their safety instead of criticising them. “It is a sacrifice they make and Kenyans need to know that these officers put their lives in line to keep this country safe. These are unsung heroes and they are acknowledged and respected by their peers and the nation at large. The public has an obligation to play its role in assisting security agencies,” said the AP spokesman.

One Wednesday, the 18th AP officer was shot dead by bandits in Marich, West Pokot County. He and his three colleagues were escorting trucks from Lodwar to Kapenguria when they were ambushed.

The tragic week that began on Tuesday last week in Wardeglo, Garissa County, where five AP officers died in an IED attack when their Land Cruiser hit an IED.

The vehicle with eight officers attached to Kulan AP post on board was travelling on Liboi-Kulan road on normal operation duties. Died on the spot Inspector Issack Durow attached to the RBPU, the driver, Constable Abdikarim Yussuf, Constable Khalif Yussuf and Constable Oliver Ochieng died on the spot while constables Denis Mwachiru, Titus Mwangi, Peter Gakuo and Nahashon Omondi sustained injuries.

On the same day at about 12.30pm, five other RBPU officers were killed when the Toyota Land Cruiser they were travelling in on Dadaab-Liboi road hit a landmine in Maleley area. Then on Wednesday this week, seven RBPU officers died when the armoured personnel carrier they were ran over an IED in Lamu.