Bandits ambush Laikipia village and burn classrooms as police operation begins
Gunmen who terrorized residents of Laikipia West constituency for more than a month yesterday launched a daring daytime attack on the village of Mirigwit moments after security personnel began an operation.
The gang struck exactly an hour after Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya launched the operation at the Ol Moran Mall.
Journalists who interacted with residents of the village of Mirigwit – two kilometers from the mall – came under heavy fire from bandits hiding in the thickets.
The attackers stormed the Mirigwit Primary School, which had been closed earlier, and torched at least three classrooms before a contingent of police arrived.
As locals hid in nearby bushes, police officers exchanged gunfire with the bandits who fired from the thick vegetation around the school for at least an hour before retreating.
At around 3:20 p.m., two military planes carrying senior security officials landed at the school where government agents assessed the damage. No civilians were allowed to enter.
Despite the launch of the operation, fear has gripped residents fleeing their homes to safer places as criminals continue to burn some homes.
“We have deployed adequate personnel and equipment to ensure that the areas where people have been displaced are secure so that they do not turn into areas of operations for bandits,” Natembeya said.
He said the operation will not be brutal, as it gives the bandits the last chance to leave the villages and conservatories, which they have overrun with their thousands of cattle.
“We engage them in soft power to make sure they leave without victims. For them, they think the government is weak. However, we will use all available means to flush them out.
While assuring those camping in different malls of their safety, he said a section of officers scoured the conservatories to rid them of bandits.
“We want to clean up Laikipia Nature Conservancy where the bandits retreat after committing their atrocities against the inhabitants of the villages. It will be a total cleaning and taking over of conservation, ”he said.
The Home Office said on Monday that the reserve was a disturbed area and imposed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on it and its surroundings, with livestock owners having two days to remove them.
“I urge residents to respect the curfew and allow security guards to carry out their patrols. We don’t want innocent people caught in the crossfire between officers and bandits, ”Natembeya said.
He said the attacks in Laikipia were a spillover of an ongoing security operation in neighboring Baringo County.
“Laikipia enjoyed relative peace until three weeks ago, when we conducted a major security operation in Kapedo. The heat has become too hot for the bandits who fled Baringo and are now terrorizing Laikipia, ”Natembeya said. He said the bandits took shelter in the reservations from where they plan their attacks on surrounding communities, with at least 13 people killed and dozens injured in the past month.
“The attacks spread to the Ol Moran Division in Laikipia West. The problem has been compounded by the increase in the number of pastoralists coming from Isiolo and Samburu counties, who are all armed, ”Natembeya said.
The administrator pointed out that currently there are sufficient resources for livestock in their home counties, but the attackers are hiding behind the search for pasture to evict local communities.
“The disturbed area falls under conservatories and other privately owned land. Now we have attackers claiming the land belonged to their ancestors, ”he said.
“It’s a very stupid way of thinking because the current inhabitants have real title deeds. The only thing they lack are guns. As a government, we will protect the private property and the lives of the people of this region. ”
He accused senior officials of stoking violence in the region to protect their selfish interests at the expense of innocent lives.
“Some people in the country’s security sector, army and police from warring communities have their cattle in the reserves,” he said.
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said previous operations failed to achieve the expected results.
“We expect that we will have a more robust security operation from today. It is unthinkable that bandits in groups of 10 could invade the police and GSU camps, ”Ndiritu said.