GARISSA (Xinhua) -- Kenyan police have launched a major crackdown in Garissa town near the border with Somalia in search of gunmen who hurled a hand grenade and sprayed bullets at a local police station on Monday night.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
However, local residents have bitterly complained of police harassment during the search mission amid fears Al-Shabaab militia and their sympathizers in Kenya were responsible for renewed attacks in the restive region.
Divisional deputy police commander, Chemonges Ndiema said that during the Monday night attack, the police on duty exchanged fire with the attackers for more than 30 minutes before the attackers fled.
"No one was hurt in the 21:00 hrs incident targeting police on duty at the station," Ndiema said.
The gunmen are said to have hurled a grenade into the police post thinking the security officers were inside.
"The police officers who the attackers thought were inside the building were not there.
"The gunmen fired at the building after the grenade exploded but no police officers were inside the building," Ndiema said.
He said there was a possibility that the latest attack was related to the Sunday one in which two police officers were killed as they were patrolling a local school.
"There is a possibility the two incidents are linked and we highly suspect Al-Shabaab and their sympathizers in Kenya are behind all these," Ndiema said.
Eye witnesses told Xinhua on Tuesday that they spotted three people in balaclavas around the shopping centers before they heard explosion.
Bernard Gitonga, a miraa trader at the Iftin shopping center said three people approached his shop armed with guns.
Another witness Kelvin Misiko said the assailants started spraying bullets inside his shop.
"I switched off the lights and lay on the floor.
"The attackers must have thought they killed us because they left," he said.
During the exchange of fire, police demolished makeshift structures near the police station saying they could harbor the criminals.
The officers also moved from house to house searching for the attackers believed to be members of the Al-Shabaab militants.
Meanwhile, local leaders and residents complained of police harassment during the search mission.
Area lawmaker, Aden Dualle claimed the police used excessive force on the residents. He said over 20 people were injured during the search team.
The legislator said area senior security officers must explain to the public why area residents were beaten up after the explosions, adding the police should engage in searching for the militants instead of venting their anger on the wrong people.
Northern Forum for Democracy Director Khalif Abdi Farah also condemned police officers for what he termed as excessive use of force on innocent citizens.
The grenade attacks are likely to cause panic among the residents of Garissa which had enjoyed relative calm since the last church attack in July that claimed the lives of 20 people and scored left nursing injuries.
The police said more border patrol will be intensified along the Kenya-Somalia border in Kiunga and Dadaad refugee camps to prevent the al-Qaida-linked insurgents who are fleeing Kismayo from entering into the country.
The east African nation blames Al-Shabaab for the spate of kidnappings of four foreigners, grenade attacks and fears its tourist and business economy will be destroyed if it allows the insurgents to go on unchallenged.
The trend of the attacks particularly in northern Kenya and Nairobi, which seemingly are well coordinated since few suspects have been arrested, has heightened worries among Kenyans.
At least 20 security officers have been killed in more than 10 attacks that have occurred in Nairobi, Mombasa, Mandera, Garissa and Wajir counties.