Non-locals should avoid using road transport in Mandera County and instead opt for air travel as they are targets for Al-Shabaab on the roads, the Mandera County Commissioner has said.
“Al-Shabaab is always targeting non-locals and the security agents,” said Mr Fredrick Shisia.
All residents have been cautioned against using certain roads due to increased threats of attack.
Mr Shisia further warned that the government cannot guarantee security to travellers using the Elwak route.
“We have advised most road users to use the Mandera-Takaba-Moyale route because we cannot guarantee use of the Elwak route since we have not replaced two police vehicles burnt last week,” he said.
“This is a temporary measure but once the Inspector General releases two vehicles needed for bus escort then we shall resume normal business.”
Mr Shisia said Al-Shabaab militants have increased their movements in the area.
“We have been monitoring movement of Al-Shabaab and the kind of information we received over the weekend was not very good and we decided to step up our level of alertness,” he said.
Intelligence reports seen by the Nation indicate that many Al-Shabaab militants have moved into Kenyan territory and might have set up a temporary camp at Somalia’s Bula Hawa Town.
Another militant camp is reported at Boroche, a Somalia town bordering Elwak in Mandera South.
Last week, 12 policemen narrowly survived an attack in which suspected Al-Shabaab militants blew two police vehicles using rocket propelled grenades.
The county commissioner denied that the government was discriminating against some Kenyans by asking non-locals not to uses buses and letting locals travel through the terror hotspots.
He said the government was only being cautious and buses have been allowed on the road because the owners have loans and mortgages to repay.
“The target of Al-Shabaab is non-locals and security officers in Mandera and we cannot risk putting police on the road without the customised vehicles. We cannot also risk lives of non-locals on these buses too,” said Mr Shisia.
“This move does not mean we have lost the fight against Al-Shabaab.”
During bus attacks in Mandera, especially in 2016, passengers were asked to alight and the attackers profiled them according to religion and race.
The attackers then shot and killed the non-Muslims and non-Somalis.
Mr Shisia announced that a driver abducted last month was released.
“That driver and the vehicle were released after the intervention of elders and he is back in the country safe,” he said.
Mr Shisia did not confirm the driver’s identity.