A suspected al-Shabab fighter held at a police station in western Kenya grabbed a gun and shot at officers, leading to a hostage situation, according to officials and local media.
Police commandos surrounded the Kapenguria police station in an attempt to bring the stand-off to an end, police Inspector General Joseph Boinnet said in a statement on Thursday, without giving any details about casualties.
“His attempts to escape were thwarted by quick arrival by other officers,” Boinnet said.
Another police officer, who declined to be named, told the Reuters news agency that at least four officers were killed and that the number could rise.
He said the man was suspected of recruiting for Somali armed group al-Shabab.
Kenya’s Nation news organisation reported that five police officers, including a senior officer, were are among the dead, quoting West Pokot County Commissioner Wilson Wanyanga.
Kenyan television channel KTN said as many as six officers had died in Kapenguria.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said: “People on the ground that we’ve been talking to say he is a suspected al-Shabab sympathiser [who had] been recruiting young people in the area.
“It’s well known in Kenya that al-Shabab is still very active, recruiting young people in parts of the country, carrying out attacks … but what really stands out about this one is that such an incident hadn’t happened before in western Kenya.”
Al-Shabab has launched a series of attacks against Kenya in recent years, including using local recruits. The group says the attacks are aimed at driving Kenyan forces out of Somalia, where they are part of an African force fighting al-Shabab.
More than 100 al-Shabab members raided a police station in northeast Kenya last week, wounding one officer and making off with arms and ammunition.