Two people were killed Wednesday evening and another reported missing when gunmen, believed to be al-Shabab militants, attacked a bus in Kenya's Mandera county, along with the border with Somalia.
The bus driver described the ordeal in an exclusive interview with Rael Ombuor for VOA News.
Bus driver Anis Abdinoor has plied the route between Nairobi and Mandera for the last seven years. He says he left Nairobi Tuesday night with a bus carrying 59 passengers.
It was near the end of the trip, about 5.30 p.m on Wednesday, when he saw a vehicle blocking the narrow road that he was traveling on.
“When I tried to slow down the vehicle before getting to where the vehicle was blocked, I heard a gunshot from both sides of the vehicle,” Abdinoor said. “I identified people who were wearing military uniform who were shooting the vehicle, so I started slowing down the vehicle. When I thought of escaping, I saw that the road had been blocked by another vehicle which had been stopped before I reached.”
Abdinoor said that the attackers numbered more than 30.
He said that after he stopped, the attackers ordered everyone off the bus, and made it clear who they were looking for.
“When they reached us, they told us everybody should get out. They told me to get out, they beat me up. So when they were beating me up they were asking me questions. They asked me how many non-locals are you carrying in your vehicle? I told them I am carrying no non-locals in my vehicle,” Abdinoor said. “So they told everybody to alight from the vehicle, from there, they started checking everybody one by one, searching for non-locals ... I tried talking to them to tell them these people were not non locals, they said they were looking for non-Muslims.”
The ordeal, according to Abdinoor, took about one hour. He believes the attackers stationed themselves in that spot several hours earlier, as they had detonated explosives in the road and hijacked the vehicle that they used to block Abdinoor's bus.
The bodies of two people, suspected to be from the vehicle the attackers used to block the road, were later discovered near the scene of the attack.
Nobody on Abdinoor's bus was killed, but the attackers took away his bus mechanic.
Mandera, the town where the attack happened, is located in northeastern Kenya and has seen several attacks from suspected Al-Shabab militants.
In the deadliest incident, Shabab gunmen attacked a quarry in Mandera five years ago, killing 14 people.
Al-Shabab has been at war with Kenya since 2011, when Kenya sent troops into Somalia to help African Union forces fight the Islamist militant group.