Kenyan security forces on Friday launched a rescue operation for unidentified gunmen who abducted two Cuban doctors and shot dead a police officer near the country’s border with Somalia.

Local newspaper, The Daily Nation said the attackers drove off with the doctors, who are employed by the Kenyan government, after the shooting in Mandera in the north-east of the country.

KTN News said police suspected the doctors and their abductors, thought to be members of the Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group, had gone into Somalia.

Kenyan Citizen television footage showed police officers setting up a roadblock on a road leading to the border.

The abducted doctors are among 110 Cuban specialists that Kenyan imported in June 2018, as it sought to improve the quality of medical services in rural areas.

Troubled Mandera

Mandera has been the scene of frequent attacks in which dozens of civilians and security personnel have been killed. Al Shabaab have taken responsibility for most of them.

In November, gunmen wounded five people including two children and kidnapped an Italian charity worker in Chakama, a small town near the Kenyan coast and south of the Somali border. The fate of the Italian woman is unknown.

The group also conducts frequent assaults in Kenya, mostly in the region bordering Somalia, to put pressure on the Kenyan government to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy upgraded its travel warning for Kenya, listing “do not travel” for Mandera county.

“Exercise increased caution in Kenya due to crime, terrorism and kidnapping,” the warning read.

Al Shabaab are fighting to topple Somalia’s central government and establish their own rule based on their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

REUTERS

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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