Elders from Mandera County are said to have gone back to Somalia to renegotiate the Sh150 million ransom that Al-Shabaab militants are demanding for the release of two Cuban doctors kidnapped last month.
The elders had been given the demands when they went to a remote village in Jubbaland where Dr Assel Herera Correa, a general practitioner, and Dr Landy Rodriguez, a surgeon, are believed to be held.
Sources who spoke to the Nation said the elders were sent back to renegotiate the ransom. But security officials in Mandera have dismissed the claims as premature.
The elders from Mandera and Bulahawo in Somalia had been sent to a village located between Buale and El Adde to negotiate the release of the doctors.
Elders are highly regarded in the Somali community and have the ability to resolve dangerous and complex issues.
The elders are said to have successfully worked on the safe return of more than 500 Somali men abducted by Al-Shabaab.
They confirmed that the two medics were alive and were treating patients in an area controlled by the militants. When the group kidnaps doctors, it often takes them to attend to their injured colleagues and does not mistreat them.
“The doctors are well taken care of. They are under watch as they offer medical care to locals,” said a security official who talked to one of the elders.
The bandits who took the doctors, our sources say, handed them over to Al-Shabaab terrorists, who in turn demanded a ransom. The terrorists used proxies to communicate to the elders.
As soon as the doctors were kidnapped, a multiagency security team from Kenya and Cuba visited Mandera in search of the kidnappers, but they had already crossed into Somalia.
Two days later, military choppers were seen hovering over Mandera Town and parts of Bulahawo, but matters have remained quiet since.
Dr Correa and Dr Rodriguez are among 100 Cuban specialists who arrived in Kenya in June 2018 on an exchange programme.
The two were kidnapped in Mandera Town by armed men who ambushed and blocked the vehicle ferrying them to work.
One of the police officers guarding the medics was killed while another escaped with injuries.
The driver who was taking the doctors to their workplace has since been arrested and is being investigated.
The doctors had expressed concerns about their safety, the Nation has learnt. What concerned them most was the five-kilometre distance they had to cover daily from their house to Mandera Level Four Hospital.
In earlier interviews, Dr Rodriguez had expressed fear about working in Mandera, having read about frequent Shabaab attacks.
Their kidnap is the second of such incident involving foreigners in five months, after the kidnapping of Italian charity worker Silvia Romano in Malindi.