Suspected al-Shabab fighters have kidnapped two Cuban doctors and killed their police bodyguard in northern Kenya near the border with Somalia, which is where the armed group is based, according to officials.
The doctors were ambushed as they headed to work on Friday, said David Ohito, communications director for the Mandera county government.
Ali Roba, the governor of Mandera, said in a statement that the gunmen’s vehicle blocked the doctors’ vehicle “and opened fire at their bodyguards, killing one instantly”.
The abductors might have taken the doctors to Somalia, police spokesman Charles Owino said. He said the doctors’ driver had been detained to help with investigations.
A police official identified the doctors as Dr Assel Herera Correa, a general physician, and Dr Landy Rodriguez, a surgeon.
They were stationed at the Mandera County Referral Hospital as part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
“Our security agencies are working with Somalia Government Security agencies to pursue the abductors into Somalia with the objective of rescuing the victims,” Kenyan police chief Hillary Mutyambai said in a statement.
It was the second abduction of a foreigner in five months, likely carried out by the Somali-based al-Shabab.
In November, an Italian volunteer, Silvia Romano, was kidnapped in southern Kenya’s coastal region by gunmen linked to al-Shabab. She has not been found yet.
The al-Qaeda affiliate has been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s central government, which is backed by a 20,000-strong African Union force, known as AMISOM, and establish its own rule based on strict interpretation of Islamic law.
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 US embassy had 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.
Kidnappings in Kenya are relatively rare but can have a devastating effect on tourism, a major income-earner.