Several Kenyan police officers were killed overnight Monday in an al-Shabab ambush on a village near Garissa, the scene of last month's deadly attack on a university, which claimed 148 lives.
According to locals, at least 10 police officers died in the attack on Yumbis village, which is located 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Garissa, but Kenyan media said the number of casualties could be more than 20. Some of the policemen were killed in a shootout with members of the al-Shabab terrorist group, while others were killed when their vehicle struck landmines planted by militants, a military spokesman said.
In a statement taking credit for the attack, Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told the press: "We took all their weapons. There were some Kenyan forces that escaped in the course of the ambush fighting."
Kenya's "Daily Nation" newspaper reported that a number of the casualties were part of a second convoy of officers who went to rescue some of their fellows caught in the earlier ambush in Yumbis on Monday.
The area around Yumbis had been on the radar of security services since jihadis overran a mosque last week and began to preach to the congregation. Kenya's interior ministry claimed to have "thwarted" an attack on Yumbis Thursday evening.
Police confirmed that the attack had taken place and that some officers were killed, but could not confirm a death toll as "the area is on the remote side of Garissa not far from the border; that is why we are having a problem getting information instantly." A police spokesman also said that several officers were missing following the two incidents.
Somali-based al-Shabab has increased its presence in Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi's military intervention in Somalia, where an African Union force supports the Western-backed government in Mogadishu.
es/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)