by Fabian Mangera and Stephen Ingati
MANDERA, Kenya, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Fear has gripped Kenyan residents near the border with Somalia amid reports that Al- Shabaab militants are fleeing to regions near the northern Kenyan town of Mandera as the Africa Union forces surrounded the strategic city of Kismayo.
Reports indicated on Thursday that the insurgents are also moving toward Gedo region of southern Somali bordering attacks- prone Kenya's border town.
Many families are panicking, while small number of others have started moving out of the town to the neighboring villages of Khalalio, Bela, Harari Hosle and Rhamu after word went round that the beleaguered Al-Shabaab militia were advancing toward the Gedo region in daring revenge attacks on the Kenyan soil.
Mandera District Commissioner Elvans Korir confirmed the development, saying the locals were scared of reports by Somali media that scores of armored tankers loaded with the Al-Shabaab militia were seen heading toward Gedo region bordering Mandera.
"Now that Al-Shabaab is imminently on verge of losing its last bastion of its control, they are reported to be fleeing toward interior towns of Somali and this is why people are worried of the group attacking the town out of desperate ravage," Korir told Xinhua by telephone on Thursday.
Mandera has served both in human causalities, kidnapping and destruction of property in the hands of the group that, because of the town's proximity, targeted it for their revenge attack against the country for sending its troop to Somalia to flush them out.
In 1991, armed faction chasing the ousted former dedicator late president Said Barre entered the town, causing an unforgettable destruction and loss of lives to the residents of the town. The residents are talking of similar fate that, they fear, might occur to them.
The local administrator assured the residents there is no cause for any alarm since the government's security agencies are on high alert to thwart any possible attacks from the defeated al Qaida- linked terror group.
However, the residents were not comfortable with the government's assurance of their security for the reason that a similar assurance by the security apparatus has previously failed to forestall recurrent attacks that even targeted the security officers themselves. Two days ago, a similar attack targeting government's security organs, left two administration police officers hurt seriously after their vehicle came under improvised electric devices attack at Malka-Suftu area which is the Kenya- Ethiopia border.
Meanwhile, a security vehicle scouting a water tanker ferrying water to drought stricken pastoralist families in Arabia division in Mandera East constituency in Mandera County came under fierce gun fire on Thursday.
The police officers exchanged heavy gun fires with the over 20 assailants believed to be the Somali militia from the neighboring Damasa village of Somali town.
Korir said the assailants ambushed the police officers at road junction near Arabia town, however got repulsed by the officers after a fierce gun battle that last for over 40 minutes.
Since the east African nation's soldiers launched cross border incursion into southern Somalia, scores of its security officers were killed, while others were injured in series of IED attacks in Dadaab refugee camps in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir.
Kenya has been subjected to successive explosives attacks by Al- Shabaab operatives in the country following the onslaught by Kenyan soldiers on the Al-Shabaab in Somalia after the militia staged a series of attacks along the Kenyan coast.
The recent ambush, grenade and church attacks, came amid heightened security in Nairobi after Somali insurgents threatened reprisal attacks in Kenya if her soldiers who launched cross border incursions in October last year do not leave the Horn of Africa nation.