The Kenyan government says its forces repelled Islamic militants who attacked a village in northeastern Kenya, in the same area where militants seized control of a college and killed nearly 150 people last month.
The interior ministry said Friday that militants attacked Yumbis village in Garissa county late Thursday, but were thwarted by security forces after a gun battle. No casualties were reported.
Residents told a VOA reporter who visited the scene that no gun battle took place in the village. They say about 20 militants entered the village Thursday evening and left several hours later before Kenyan security forces arrived.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said the militants gathered the villagers and preached to them about Islam.
"They said, 'we are looking for non-believers.' They said, 'we need people to join us,' but we told them we can’t do that. They said 'people who can't join us, may Allah guide them.' Then they said [they would] pray for us. There were about 20 gunmen; we could not recognize anyone because they hid their faces."
Kenyan media reports say the militants had been in the area for five days.
Witnesses and residents say that after the gun battle, some of the assailants were still in the area and could be planning more attacks.
Njoka said Kenyan forces are positioned to protect the population.
"We have forces on the ground; we don’t have specific details where they are right now," Njoka said, adding that after security forces moved in, the militants blended into the population.
"They know the area," he noted, "and some may try to hide in the community."
The attack comes just two days after al-Shabab fighters stormed a mosque in a nearby village, giving sermons and reading the names of those working with the government in various departments including security.
Al-Shabab militants took control of Garissa University College last month in a dawn attack, taking a number of hostages inside university buildings. By the time the siege was over, 148 people were dead, most of them students.
Al-Shabab has vowed to continue such attacks while Kenya has troops stationed in Somalia, supporting the Somali government in its fight against the militants.
Abdulaziz H. Osman contributed to this report.