Seven Dead in Kenya Wildlife Shootout

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - Three Kenya Wildlife Service rangers lost their lives Saturday when they were gunned down by a gang of suspected poachers during an operation in the Tana River District, about 215 miles southeast of the capital Nairobi.

The Kenya Wildlife Service says the three rangers were part of a seven member ranger force that was on patrol Saturday at 2 am in the Idsowe Area of Tana River when they were attacked by a gang of armed men.

During an exchange of fire, the rangers killed four poachers while others escaped with injuries, according to Paul Udoto, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service. The poachers were crossing the Tana River from the east bank to the western side of the river.

Two AK 47 assault rifles and two axes were among the items recovered from the scene of the attack, Wildlife Service officials said.

During the same operation, another ranger was seriously injured and was taken to Ngao Hospital in Tarasaa. Wildlife Service officials say Abdirizak Dahir Ahmed underwent treatment and now is out of danger.

survivor

Wounded survivor Ranger Abdirizak Dahir Ahmed awaits takeoff in a small plane on his way to Nairobi for medical treament. (Photo courtesy KWS)
He was flown Saturday to Wilson Airport in Nairobi and taken to another hospital to have bullets removed from his body.

The bodies of the three dead rangers were flown to Nairobi and taken to the mortuary for a postmortem examination.

An intensive hunt for the poachers who escaped is currently underway. It involves the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers, the police and the local administration.

Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipng’etich and other senior security officers are on the ground coordinating the operation. Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe says reinforcements have been sent to the area.

Kenya is now on the frontlines of a battle against poaching. The government has been applauded by conservationists for opposing moves to lift the current ban on trade in elephant ivory that is on the agenda at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in June.