Seven police officers were killed and more than 20 others seriously wounded on Saturday afternoon after they were ambushed by gunmen in Baragoi, Samburu. The officers were attacked by armed bandits as they pursued cattle rustlers to recover stolen cattle. Ten other police officers were reportedly missing following the fighting.
“Five of the injured have been airlifted to Nairobi for specialised treatment”, said Rift Valley Provisional Police chief John Mbijiwe. Five others are recuperating at the Baragoi district hospital.
“Some of the bandits were wounded in the attack and others killed” in the gun battle, a senior police officer told the AFP news agency but he was unable to give any further details.
GOVERNMENT ISSUED DEADLINE
In the past few weeks the government has been engaging in talks with the two communities and gave an ultimatum to surrender the stolen livestock to each other. It was when the government’s deadline ran out that they deployed police officers to pursue the bandits and recover stolen cattle.
13 VILLAGERS KILLED TWO WEEKS AGO
This deadly incident comes just two weeks after the cattle rustlers being tracked down by the police had raided villages in Lomirok when they shot and killed 13 people and wounded three others.
Some villagers in the area have accused police for failing to protect them against cattle rustlers. The police however, insist communities in the region are at fault for engaging in retaliatory attacks whenever a cattle rustling incident occurs.
Cattle rustling is common in the region and often leads to clashes between rival communities but it is rare for police officers to be attacked.
TURKANA AND SAMBURU COMMUNITIES
Barogoi is a dry northern region inhabited by nomad communities.
The two communities of Turkana and Samburu in Baragoi have on previous occasions been involved in armed conflicts. Samburu is one of the counties most blighted by insecurity, in part due to proliferation of small arms that has promoted the culture of cattle rustling over the years.