MANDERA, Kenya (AP) — An explosion killed a Kenyan soldier and wounded 11 of his colleagues on Thursday in a town on the country’s border with Somalia, provoking a backlash by security forces who beat scores of civilians, officials said.
Five seriously wounded soldiers were airlifted to the nearby city of Garissa for treatment but one died of his wounds, said defense spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir.
A total of 12 had been hospitalized by the explosion, said Faizul Abdinoor, a local councilor.
Following the incident, more than 300 living nearby were arrested by Kenya military forces and Somali soldiers who crossed the border, said Mandera Town Council Chairman Mohamed Adan Khalif. He said he had been inside the police station and had seen many people who had been severely beaten. A prominent local businessman and the imam of the Mandera Jamia mosque seemed to have broken arms, he said.
"Whenever attacks occurred in our town our military officers turns against our innocent population living in the town," he said. "We fear if this kind of harassment continues, the (Kenyan army) will lose the hearts and minds of the locals … Nobody shall expect a co-operation from intimidated people."
Khalif also questioned why Somali soldiers — who are helping the Kenyan military in their fight against the al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgent group al-Shabab — were operating in Kenyan territory.
"Whenever there is an explosion in Mandera — which is a town in Kenya — they joined the (Kenyan army) in harassing the people. We can understand when our people are beaten by our military officers, but how can our people been assaulted by foreign force?" Khalif said.
The explosion was believed to be caused by a land mine, said provincial police boss Leo Nyongesa. Security officers were combing the scene of crime for clues but the truck they were riding in was destroyed, he said.
The attack in the northern Kenyan town of Mandera is the sixth in a series of roadside bombs and grenade attacks following the entry of Kenyan troops into Somalia last month. Kenya sent the troops into Somalia following a string of kidnappings and attacks on Kenyan soil that it blamed on al-Shabab.
Kenya said the incursion was a reaction to the kidnaps but it has spent years advocating for the establishment of a buffer zone in Somalia along the border and recruiting and training Somali militias.
Kenyan planes bombed two suspected al-Shabab camps on Wednesday, Chirchir said Thursday.
Associated Press writer Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.