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Mandera on lockdown as search for doctors intensifies

Sunday April 14, 2019

Dr Assel Herera Correa (left) a general physician and Dr Landy Rodriguez a surgeon. The two doctors were abducted in Mandera town on April 12, 2019. PHOTOS | COURTESY

Two days after their kidnapping, a combination of police officers and military men combing the vast Mandera area in search of Cuban doctors Assel Herera Correa and Landy Rodriguez, have found no trace of their whereabouts within Mandera County.

This is despite the deployment of some of the best-trained and equipped police and military teams who’s kitting and training is among the most expensive in the world.

Security agents told Sunday Nation that the gunmen crossed the border to Somalia and headed to Bula Hawa, a Somali town across the border where locals support the al-Shabaab militants.


As the kidnapping touches on national security and threatens the working relationship between the governments of Kenya and Cuba, the military has taken an active role in the investigations.

As from Friday, the military deployed the fresh-trained commandos from the Long Range Surveillance (LRS) unit, to assist the police and other Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers drawn from the 1KR battalion in the search.

The men and women from the highly secretive LRS unit carry out difficult and secretive military missions, including gathering information behind enemy lines.

Military helicopters drawn from the Air Cavalry Battalion took over the search and rescue operations on air from the Kenya Police Airwing which flew the body of the slain officer to the Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.


The police officer was a bodyguard attached to the Italian doctors. On Saturday, the National Security Advisory Committee met to review the operational status of the rescue mission.

“Concerted efforts are being made for their search and rescue by a multi-agency security team. The National Security Advisory Committee has also briefed the Cabinet Secretary of Health, Interior and Defence, who remain seized of the matter,” said National Police Service spokesman Charles Owino in a statement.

The police spokesman ruled out the possibility of securing the freedom of the two by paying ransom.

Mr Owino also said that the Cabinet Secretary for Health Ms Sicily Kariuki was in touch with her counterpart in Cuba, “who is also receiving regular briefs on the ongoing efforts to locate the doctors.”


On Saturday,, police were conducting swoops in Mandera in search of people believed to have aided the abduction of doctors.

“We are sweeping the town in door-to-door operations in search of suspects who might be connected to the kidnapping,” Mandera County Police Commander Jeremiah ole Kosiom said.

So far, the police have arrested the county government driver ferrying the Cubans and other police officers guarding them as they carry out investigations. Their mobile phones were sent to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for data analysis so as to evaluate whether they were connected to the attack.

Mandera County governor Ali Roba and Mandera East MP Omar Maalim promised that elected leaders, clan elders and resident will assist the government in the search and rescue mission.


“Our clan elders will engage with the counterparts in Somalia so as to ensure the safety and safe return of the doctors,” Mr Roba told Sunday Nation.

Also as part of the investigations, the police carried out a man-hunt for adults without valid identification documents and on vehicles suspected to be fitted with fake registration numbers, causing reduced business activities with locals closing their shops and the non-locals choosing to stay at home.


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