Somali al Shabaab militants killed three police officer during a raid on a north-eastern Kenyan town that sparked a day-long gun battle, a senior police official said.
It was the latest in a spate of attacks on Kenyan security services since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to join an African Union force charged with neutralising militant and other armed groups and bolstering its UN-backed government.
Al Shabaab gunmen attacked the police station in Pandanguo in the coastal district of Lamu forcing villagers to flee, according to residents. The area is near Kenya’s long, porous border with Somalia.
The militants also raided a dispensary for drugs and houses for food, clothes and other valuables, witnesses said. Smoke could be seen rising from the village later in the day.
By 6 pm, three policemen had been killed and a gun battle was continuing, police said.
“The attackers used RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades),” George Kinoti, Kenya’s national police spokesman, said in a text message. “Reinforcements sent to engage the enemy have killed several terrorists.”
In July 2014, more than 60 militants attacked the same village, torched houses and stole drugs from the same dispensary.
Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, confirmed Wednesday’s attack to Reuters.
“We burned the police station and captured cars. Now there are sporadic exchanges of gunfire between us and the police on the outskirts of town but we still control the town,” he said.
The raid follows a series of attacks in Kenya claimed by Somali militants that have killed at least 28 people in the last six weeks. Most have taken place near the Somali border.
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militia is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s UN-backed government and impose strict Islamic law in the Horn of Africa state.
They ramped up attacks in neighbouring Kenya after Kenyan troops entered Somalia to join AU peacekeeping force there.
In a separate incident in Somalia, an air strike killed 10 al Shabaab militants near the southern port city of Kismayo, the Mogadishu government said. It was not immediately clear who carried out the air strike.
Somalia’s government does not have aircraft but mentioned “international partners” in its press statement. Ethiopia, Kenya and the United States have all conducted air raids on Somali territory.