Murimi Mutiga and Reuben Mwambingu @PeopleDailyKe
An Italian volunteer at a Malindi children’s home is still missing, a day after being abducted during an attack by gunmen.
The raiders, believed to be six, dragged Silvia Romano, 23, from her hotel room in the dusty trading centre and crossed River Galana with her.
She works with African Milele Onlus, an NGO, that runs a children’s home in the area.
Another lodger, now the main suspect in the deadly Tuesday night assault, has been identified as Said Adan Abdi, and is said to have checked into the Chakama Guest House Monday. He was joined by two other people on Tuesday evening, hours before the attack.
The 8pm indiscriminate shooting by the gang, which left five people injured, among them a 10-year-old boy, has raised questions on whether al Shabaab, now nearly vanquished by the Amisom forces in Somalia, is resorting to random and indiscriminate attacks.
Sources said the man, who has been a frequent customer at the guest house in the last two years, appears to have been on spying mission. Foreign nationals working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the coastal region are soft targets for Somalia-based al Shabaab militia. In 2011, a Briton, Judith Tebbutt, was kidnapped from a luxury beach hotel in Lamu.
Yesterday as police launched a manhunt for the suspects, irate residents attacked three people, who they accused of having links with the attackers.
The residents expressed concern over what they claimed was police failure to give them backing to pursue the attackers across the river, adding that they ignored their pleas and only fired “indiscriminately” to scare the abductors.
They said they could hear Romano crying and pleading with her captors to spare her life— and even promising to give them all the money she had in the house.
The owner of the guest house, Samuel Kahindi, said Abdi arrived with two other men of Somali descent and reserved some rooms but did not pay.
“Yesterday at 4pm, the suspect arrived at the guest house with two strange men and reserved rooms. They promised to pay later as they were awaiting somebody to send them the money through mobile money transfer. But they left when it got dark and never returned,” he said.
He described the main suspect as a “middle class man who spent most of his time chewing miraa.”
Police said the attackers fired indiscriminately at residents, injuring Samini Dadu, 23, on the left side of the neck.The other victims were; Ibrahim Said, 16, who was shot on the left knee while Elias Kathua, 12 was shot in the left thigh.
Mohamed Kalume Konde, 10, who was shot in the left eye and 20-year-old Mang Katana Jeff, was shot on the right thigh.
The victims, who are some of those who tried to fight off the attackers, are admitted at the Malindi sub-county hospital for treatment.
A resident, Ronald Kazungu, 19, said he was with the victim up to 7.30pm when the attackers stormed in and ordered children to lie down at gunpoint.
“I was with Romano as she was capturing the report images with her phone camera to send them to Italy. Her phone had run out of charge and she had gone to pick her power bank in the room when six men came and surrounded me,” he said.
He said the men, three of them armed, locked the door and demanded to see the Italian, adding that one of them “slapped her hard, sending her off balance, before he began strangling her”.
“I screamed for help and she pleaded with me to help her. I immediately jumped and grabbed the man who was strangling her. But one of them struck me with a club on the head and I collapsed,” he said, adding later he pushed his way out and escaped on hearing gunshots.
Police estimate the number of attackers to be six while some residents claimed they saw eight men. Three were armed with AK 47 rifles.
“I heard gunshots and quickly shut the doors of my pub. Three were armed with AK-47 rifles. We traced the suspects and saw them holding on the girl on the banks of River Galana,” said Charo Kalume.
Francis Kadenge, whose son has benefited from the African Milele Onlus education scholarship, described the Italian as a “very loving and caring woman” saying she had donated clothing to his daughter a few hours before the incident.
Kilifi county Police commander Fredrick Ochieng said no group had claimed responsibility or made any contact for ransom.