Two miraa drivers reportedly abducted by suspected Al-Shabaab militants along the Wajir-Garissa border five days ago have been released.
Mr Bashe Mahamud and Mr Mohamed Som were being held in a remote area, about 10 kilometres from Kulan. They were kidnapped as they headed to Liboi ina Toyota Land Cruiser which was carrying miraa worth Sh2 million.
They had just dropped about 15 sacks of the miraa in Kulan, Garissa County when they were stopped at gun point and held hostage.
Their employer, Ayan Dubo, said the gunmen called him, asking for Sh3 million ransom in order to release the two men and the vehicle.
Three days later, they lowered the demand to Sh1.5 million since the miraa, which is highly perishable, had gone to waste due to the intense heat.
The men were released on Saturday evening. They recorded a statement at Dadaab Police Station about the ordeal before returning to their operation base in Maua, Meru County.
The incident caused fear among other miraa drivers, coming just one-and-a-half months after three people were shot dead by suspected Al-Shabaab militants along the Rhamu-Elwak road in Mandera County.
In June, police arrested a terror suspect in Kulan shopping centre.
Mr Dubo appealed for immediate intervention to help recover his vehicle, saying the gunmen were threatening to sell it in Somalia.
“I cannot afford the amount they are asking. The miraa was destroyed. I have called the Interior ministry and informed the army at various points in Garissa and Wajir but I have not been assisted. The militants have a camp there and are telling me that they will sell the vehicle in Somalia since there is a ready market there,” he said.
Miraa association chairman Gitonga Ndoro said the traders are now afraid of transporting the produce due to increased cases of people being kidnapped.
“How can we negotiate with thugs? If we encourage this, what will stop them from seizing another vehicle tomorrow?” he wondered.