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Kenya Security Forces on Alert for Snipers Along Somali Border

Kenyan security officials are investigating the possibility that a shooting incident near the country's border with Somalia earlier this week may have involved a sniper or a sniper team. A Kenyan paramilitary policeman was wounded in the attack, which authorities believe was linked to Somalia's extremist al-Shabab group.

Security forces deployed along Kenya's border with Somalia are said to be on alert, following Tuesday's attack at Liboi border check point.

Initial reports from the Kenyan police said that two paramilitary General Service Unit officers were ambushed by gunmen during a morning patrol. The police said one officer was shot in the leg, but his colleague escaped unhurt after a brief gun battle with the attackers.

Both officers have said they did not know from where the first shots were fired. Northeastern Provincial Commissioner James Ole Serian says the shooting did not occur during a routine patrol.

"What we know is that two officers left the camp without permission," he said. "We do not know exactly where they went. And after a while, one of them came running and said that his colleague was shot at near the border. It could be a sniper, because we sent officers to the area and there was nobody there. Whoever shot him just disappeared."

Ole Serian says authorities believe the attackers were members of Somalia's al-Shabab insurgent group because the group has previously carried out violent attacks in the same area.

In April, suspected al-Shabab gunmen raided two hotels and a number of businesses in Liboi town before fleeing back into Somalia. Earlier that month, al-Shabab members were blamed for a grenade attack on a General Service Unit officers' camp at the border.

Al-Shabab, which has declared allegiance to al-Qaida and has foreign fighters among its ranks, has not claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Kenya's border. But it has repeatedly threatened to punish Nairobi for deploying thousands of security forces along the border and for Kenya's active support of Somalia's U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government.

The Kenyan-Somali border has been officially closed for several years. But the border area remains porous, and there have been unconfirmed reports that al-Shabab regularly moves personnel, vehicles and smuggled goods, including arms, into Kenya and back.

Al-Shabab carried out two suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, prompting Kenya to deploy more troops to protect its border with Somalia.

If al-Shabab militants are stationing snipers at the border, western counter-terrorism analysts say, the shift to precision targeting may be a response to the increased Kenyan troop presence.