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Shabaab sneaked Cuban doctors out at Bullahawa

In Summary
  • Kidnapping made easy after residents brought down sections of the border wall under construction. 
  • Town a key point for smuggling contraband, humans and arms. 
Somalia government soldiers from Section 21 take part in a drill at their temporary camp in Dusamareeb on March 17, 2014.
Somalia government soldiers from Section 21 take part in a drill at their temporary camp in Dusamareeb on March 17, 2014.
Image: REUTERS

Two Cuban doctors abducted by al Shabaab terrorists in Mandera were sneaked out of the country through Bullahawa on the Kenya-Somali border.

Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodriguez were kidnapped on April 12.

On Thursday Nairobi News and Capital News reported that al Shabaab had demanded $1.5 million (Sh150 million) ransom. They quoted police and government sources, and elders from Mandera and Bullahawa.

Kenyan security agencies have established that the militants used the porous Kenya-Somalia border to sneak the doctors out in April this year.

“The kidnapping was made easy after residents of Bullahawa in Somalia brought down sections of the border wall currently under construction," a report on the investigation states.

"It was the second time [that] more than a kilometre of the fence at Bullahawa had been vandalised." 

Investigators have established that al Shabaab heavily relies on the porous border to carry out attacks in Kenya, collect taxes and carry out radicalisation activities. 

The report states that clan members provide a safe haven for militants. Majority of senior al Shabaab commanders are from the clan.

“As a measure of protecting their interest in the town and across the border, al Shabaab has incorporated local Marehan clan members in preventing the border wall construction,” officers told the Star.

The investigations show al Shabaab makes use of smuggling networks to sneak operatives and transport weapons into Kenya. The point, baptised as border point one in military circles, was used during the attacks on Garissa University College and Westgate mall.

Bullahawa is a key point for smuggling contraband, humans and arms. The terrorist organisation considers Bullahawa a key ground for its cross-border activities and has always endeavoured to control the town. 

“The locals have also been paying taxes to al Shabaab collectors. Some Bullahawa government administrators have been inciting Marehan clansmen to demolish the border wall riding on allegations of encroachment on their ancestral land by Kenya,” the report reads.

The government plans to build a two-foot tall border wall covering a distance of 400km reinforced with CCTV cameras, with designated immigration and custom entry points.

The project will be carried out in three stages—160km covering the Northern section between Mandera and Elwak; 445km covering the central section between Elwak and Libat' and 105km covering the Southern sector between Libat and Kiunga.

The government stopped construction in March 2018 to address emerging issues. The concerns included demolition of houses built on the borderline, allegations of encroachment into Somalia land, and subsequent socioeconomic effects of the wall.

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya