Italian Silvia Romano

Details have emerged of how suspected al Shabaab militants on Tuesday evening kidnapped an Italian aid worker and injured five people in Kilifi.

Reports indicate about eight gunmen attacked 23-year-old Italian Silvia Romano in her rental house in Chakama village at 7pm.

Italian woman

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The attackers had rented a local lodging three days earlier, less than 20 metres from Silvia’s house. The village is in a remote area, more than 80km from Malindi town.

Journalists visited the scene early yesterday and residents said Silvia was barefoot and was dragged by the abductors despite pleading for help from the villagers.

The attackers are believed to have been on a mission to kidnap the foreigner. Silvia is the manager of African Milele Onlus. She stays in the village.

The caretaker of the guesthouse Malik Gacambi said he rented out a house to a man named Said Abdi Adan from Tana River county three days prior to the attack, but two others joined him later.

Chewed miraa

He said since the centre is cosmopolitan, he only took details of the first guest and never bothered with the details of the other two.

Gacambi said he gave them two rooms and they used to spend the night outside chewing miraa.

“I used to give them a mat to sit outside and they would chew miraa the whole night and sleep during the day,” he said. All have been missing since the attack and they did not leave anything behind, he said.

What residents still find strange is that when the attackers hurled a grenade at the centre, all shopkeepers and traders fled to safety leaving their premises open and unattended.

The attackers did not steal anything from the shops as they only targeted the foreigner.

They shot at the injured five as they escaped after abducting Silvia. The attackers fled on foot and crossed the River Galana through Matolani.

Italian Silvia Romano
Italian Silvia Romano, who was abducted by Al Shabaab

Two of the injured, a woman in her 50s and a 10-year-old boy, are in critical condition. The attackers shot them in the chest and in the eye, respectively. The other three sustained gunshot wounds in the legs. The injured were taken to Malindi Subcounty Hospital.

A report from the Malindi subcounty hospital medical team indicates that the boy still has a bullet lodged in the head, though it did not penetrate his skull.

The doctors report seen by the Star shows the woman had a penetrative bullet wound and she requires a chest tube. The other three are out of danger as they did not suffer fractures in their legs, just wounds.

On Monday night, a day before the attack, some people came to the village and joined the others, who were on the ground.

Exit plan

The attackers seemed to have studied the area well and even mapped out an exit plan. They took their time to execute their mission and escaped towards the river on foot as they knew the security response would delay. The nearest police station is 20km away in Langobaya.

Residents say Silvia had gone to pick a power bank, when the gunmen stormed her rental house.

Resident Ronald Kazungu, who is being sponsored by the NGO, was among the last people to see Silvia and witnessed the attack.

Narrating the ordeal at the trading centre yesterday, he said he had been called by the Italian to help her upload some photos at her house.

He said Silvia left to pick a power bank from another room and he saw six men coming towards him. “They asked me where the Italian girl was. Six of them went inside and at first, I thought they wanted medication, but I sensed danger when they closed all doors. I also went to where she was,” Kazungu said.

Cried for help

He said the attackers slapped the Italian and when he asked them why they were doing so, one of them hit him in the head with a blunt object. He fled to safety. Kazungu said the attackers who were outside were armed but he managed to escape.

Kazungu Mure, another resident, said he heard gunshots moments after parting with Silvia.

He said Silvia cried for help but due to fear no one could help her.

Nigerian national James Alexander, who was staying with the Italian, said he saw one attacker throw a hand grenade and he ran away.

“I feel bad about the situation. Her parents might be in shock and it’s creating a bad impression,” he said.

Magarini MP Michael Kingi and Kilifi county secretary have visited the scene and are still on the ground assessing the situation. They have assured residents everything is “under control”.

Kingi said the attack should be an eye-opener to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to set up police posts in areas bordering the Tsavo East National Park and and dispatch vehicles to the area. He said response could have been swift if security vehicles were available. Police had to hire motorcycles to reach the scene.

Italian Silvia Romano

Coast regional police Boss Noah Mwiwanda confirmed the attack but promised to give full details later as he was still in the operation.

Yesterday county commander Fredrick Ochieng said a team of security officers have been dispatched to pursue the attackers. The team comprises the KDF, Kenya Police, AP officers and KWS officers.

Credits: The Star