NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — Officials in Kenya say three bus passengers were abducted by suspected extremists in Kenya’s northern Mandera county that borders Somalia.
Armed gunmen, believed to be Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels, stopped a bus about 30 kilometres from Lafey town and ordered everyone out. The attackers picked three passengers from 54 on the bus and ordered the rest to leave, regional police chief Rono Bunei told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“We are still pursuing them in an effort to rescue them alive. We are wondering how they (the attackers) knew the three were on board the bus,” he said.
He said it’s not clear why the bus did not have a police escort, a requirement for commercial transport traveling in Mandera county which has been hard hit by violence from Somalia’s extremists.
Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight the rebels.
Since 2011 Somalia’s rebels, who are linked to Al-Qaeda, have launched scores of deadly attacks in Kenya.
The government repeatedly said since 2014 that it is mandatory for public buses travelling through Mandera county to have armed police escorts.
In December last year al-Shabab killed 11 police officers who were pulled from a bus that was taking them back to duty in Mandera county.
Since December, al-Shabab has increased the frequency of its attacks in five Kenyan counties along the Somali border that have been named as hotspots for extremist violence. They are Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Tana River and Mandera counties.
In January the extremists overran Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu county, a key military base used by US counterterror forces in Kenya, killing three American Department of Defence personnel and destroying several US aircraft and vehicles.