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Garissa: Abandoned explosives pose threat to Kenyans in northern border

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Numerous unexploded explosives left behind by fighters and bandits during the colonial era and a more recent secessionist conflict are posing threat to locals living in the northern Kenyan region bordering Somalia.

A latest deadly incident occurred two weeks ago, when three herd boys were killed after they unknowingly started playing with an old grenade they found in the fields.

Their 16-year-old playmate was seriously injured in the ordeal. On Saturday, police in the northern Kenyan county of Garissa bordering Somalia said they had detonated a hand grenade that was discovered by a herdsman.

Garissa Police County Commander Charles Kinyua said the device was found by 26-year-old Aden Abdullahi who was walking his herds to a nearby watering point.

Kinyua said the numerous unexploded grenades being found in the area had been left behind by fighters and bandits during the colonial and Shifta war era.

"The locals should be cautious of handling any mysterious objects they come across, and should instead report any such finds to the police," Kinyua told Xinhua in Garissa.

Locals who spoke to Xinhua expressed fears that the existence of dangerous explosives pose a serious threat to them and their families.

"I am afraid when my children go to play or at the field grazing my animals, because you never know what they might step on or come across," said Abdi Mohamed. "We call on the government to quickly come
here and conduct a demining exercise in order to stop any further loss of lives as a result of these explosives," he said.

Responding to the locals' concerns, Kinyua said plans were underway to use sniffer dogs to try and locate unexploded devices in the area, and very soon public meetings to sensitize locals on the dangers posed by the explosives would kick off.

Meanwhile, six AK-47 rifles and over 500 rounds of ammunition have been surrendered to the police in Garissa following an amnesty extended by the government to persons with illegal guns.

Kinyua lauded residents for their cooperation with security agencies, urging more illegal gun owners to follow suit and surrender their illegal arms.

The police officer moved to assure residents that no action would be taken on those who willingly surrendered their arms, addressing concerns among some residents that they would be arrested if they
brought in their illegal arms. "We know there are many others in the wrong hands. We urge them to surrender the weapons," Kinyua said.

The restive Garissa and other towns in the region have been plagued by insecurity since late 2011, when the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) launched a cross-border incursion into southern Somalia in pursuit of
Al-Qaida-linked militants.


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