NAIROBI, Kenya April 13 – The Chairman of the Council of Governors Wycliffe Oparanya has assured Cuban doctors working in the country of their safety, following the abduction of their two colleagues from Mandera on Friday.
Oparanya said the incident is isolated but assured that the government will step up their security as they serve in various hospitals across the 47 counties.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Saturday it was “constantly” in touch with the Cuban government over the abduction of two of its nationals—the two doctors—abducted from Mandera while headed to work.
The two doctors, who are part of a team of 100 sent to Kenya last year, were abducted on Friday morning by Al Shabaab terrorists, and taken to Somalia, in incident that left one of two police officers escorting them killed.
“We have been reminded, again, of the evil machinations of international criminal networks. Two Cuban doctors were abducted in Mandera, while on their way to work and a security officer fatally injured,” said Monica Juma, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, “Security agencies are engaged in the search and rescue mission to ensure safe return. We (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also in contact with the Government of Cuba.”
Earlier, Police Headquarters had announced that security forces were working with their Somalia counterparts in a bid to trace and rescue two Cuban doctors.
According to the National Police Service (NPS) headquarters, the approach is necessary since the attackers, suspected to be Al-Shabaab militants crossed into Somalia following the 9am incident.
“Our objective is to rescue the victims,” Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai said in a statement.
An administration Police officer who was among two escorting the doctors was killed during the incident that has raised fresh security concerns in the volatile region.
The driver who was taking the doctors from their residential area to work has since been arrested and was being interrogated according to police.
The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services.
In Cuba a health ministry statement read on television said: “Channels of communication have been established immediately with the Kenyan authorities to address this situation, while keeping the collaborators’ family members here in Cuba informed. Likewise, a government working group has been set up to follow up on this sensitive issue.”
Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade.
Last November, an armed gang seized Silvia Romano, 23, an Italian charity worker, in the southeastern town of Chakama. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Police at the time warned against any speculation that the Shabaab may have been involved in her abduction.
– Jihadist attacks –
The Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is backed by a 20,000-strong African Union force, Amisom.
The Shabaab fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country, and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities, striking at the heart of Somalia’s government.
The group has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya in reprisal for the country’s participation in Amisom.
Kidnappings in Kenya are relatively rare but can have a devastating impact on tourism, a major income-earner.
In 2011, a British man, David Tebbutt, was killed and his wife, Judith, was kidnapped by gunmen who took her into Somalia and held her for ransom for six months.
That attack, and the kidnapping weeks later of a Frenchwoman on the Lamu archipelago and two Spanish aid workers from a refugee camp in northeast Kenya, were seen as a trigger for Kenya’s invasion of southern Somalia to attack Islamist bases there.