NAIROBI – Doctors working on the Kenyan border with Somalia have been evacuated after two medics were kidnapped, authorities said Tuesday.
Landy Rodriguez and Assel Herrera Correa were abducted from the Kenyan border city of Mandera on Friday by alleged members of the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab.
They were part of an exchange program in which Cuba sent more than 100 medical specialists to Kenya last year.
Doctors from the Caribbean country have since been evacuated to Nairobi from the counties of Lamu, Tana River, Wajir and Garissa, which all share a border with Somalia, according to local authorities.
Anne Gathoni, head of health in Lamu, told local media that two doctors were relocated from the area “abruptly during the weekend” after feeling “traumatized” by the kidnapping.
The orthopedic surgeon and family doctor had been sent to Lamu in July 2018.
Two other health professionals, deployed in Tana River, a few kilometers from the border with Somalia, were evacuated to Nairobi on Monday, local authorities said.
Doctors in Wajir and Garissa were also transferred to the Kenyan capital on Saturday under a national security advisory, according to police.
Charles Owino, of the Kenyan Police, told Efe that the search for Rodriguez, a surgeon, and Herrera Correa, a specialist in general medicine, was being carried out in Somalia.
He said it was a joint operation between Kenyan and Somali forces.
Leaders of the Mandera community have also gone to the country to try and negotiate their release.
The Kenyan government previously said that it will not pay any money to the kidnappers.
“We do not like to encourage the payment of a ransom to the criminals as a way of proceeding because that would encourage other kidnappings, we will use the methods provided in the law while we carry out our duties,” Owino said.
The kidnapping occurred on Friday morning, when both doctors were going to the Mandera Hospital in an official local government car.
Attackers blocked the vehicle with two cars and opened fire, killing one of the policemen who was escorting the doctors.
Kenyan authorities have said they believe Somali terror group al-Shabab, which often makes incursions into the neighboring country, could be behind the abduction.