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Al-Shabaab militants stop bus, lecture passengers for hours

Travellers heading to Mandera town were held hostage by suspected Al-Shabaab militants on Wednesday and lectured for two hours, according to a report filed at the Kotulo Police Station.

Police said an unknown number of heavily armed Al-Shabaab militants stopped an Al-Mukaram company passenger bus at Lag Mata Kuta, between Dabacity and Dimu hill, and ordered passengers out.

They “searched for non-locals for more than two hours. The bus was heading to Mandera from Nairobi,” the report said.

“They also stopped a taxi from Kotulo heading to Elwak and a motorbike coming from Borehole 11 to Dimu village. After thoroughly searching for non-locals in vain, they gave a long speech in [the] Somali language which most of the passengers didn’t comprehend,” the report said.

The assailants had divided themselves into two groups. As one group searched the passengers, the other was on guard, hiding in the bushes. All the travellers were released and proceeded on their trip. They arrived safely in Mandera later in the day.

Security officers at roadblocks have since been directed not to allow any non-local to travel on the B9 road between Kotulo and Elwak.

General Service Unit (GSU) personnel from the Duse Camp were called in hours after the incident. It remained unclear what happened to the daily armed police escorts of buses plying that road.

Armed officers have been escorting buses in and out of Mandera County since 2015 due to insecurity.

The government stopped Mandera residents of non-Somali origin from using the Mandera-Rhamu-Elwak-Kotulo-Wajir road when militants started targeting them. Non-locals travelling into or out of Mandera must fly or use the longer Mandera-Rhamu-Banisa-Moyale road.