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#Kenya : Al shabaab stationed in the forest

By Tajuddin
In Local News
Dec 16th, 2015
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Friends and relatives of victims hold candles as they pray and sing on April 7, 2015 in Nairobi, on the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed in an attack claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents on a university campus in Kenya. Photo: AFP Photo / Simon Maina

Friends and relatives of victims hold candles as they pray and sing on April 7, 2015 in Nairobi, on the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed in an attack claimed by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents on a university campus in Kenya. Photo: AFP Photo / Simon Maina

Lamu,Kenya ( Reuters + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Kenyan authorities have indefinitely extended a security operation to flush out Somali militants from the vast forest in the coastal town of Lamu due to renewed terror threats.

A Gazette notice on the extension has already been released by the Ministry of Interior amid reports that the Islamist insurgents still pose a threat as events in Mandera County in northeast Kenya attest.

Regional police commander Francis Wanjohi said on Wednesday security officers have been mobilized, as tension remains over fears of eminent attacks from militants from Somalia who are believed to be still in the vast forest planning further attacks.

Wanjohi said they have enhanced vigilance to deal by Al-Shabaab affiliate group Jeysh Ayman blamed for recent terror attacks in the coastal region.

The police believe the insurgents are hiding in Boni forest which is between northern region and coast.

Wanjohi said patrols along the Kenya-Somalia border have been enhanced to deal with al Shabaab threats in the region.

“We are aware of the Al-Shabaab threats along the Kenya Somalia border, and we established buffer zone to prevent them from crossing over,” Wanjohi said.

An estimated 3,000 people living near the forest were forced to leave so that the operation could go ahead. The forest borders the Indian Ocean and extends to the Somalia border.

It is believed that some of the militants have been using it in launching attacks in places like Mpeketoni where more than 60 people were killed in June and July 2014.

The Islamist group from Somalia has carried series of deadly attacks in northeastern and coastal regions of Kenya and other towns including the capital city of Nairobi since the East African country sent it’s military into Somalia in 2011 to subdue the Al-Qaida inspired group.

Kenyan authorities have also blamed the militants for being behind spates of kidnapping of expatriates working in the sprawling refugee camps in the incursion prone Northern region and tourists in the coastal archipelago towns of Mombasa and Lamu.

But the insurgents have vowed to press on with its deadly attacks on Kenya’s strategic interests until the government surrenders by pulling out troops from Somalia.

The terror threats prompted Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to declare Boni forest as Dangerous and Disturbed Area.

This means locals who had been relying on the forest for their daily lives and produce food for selling will have to keep off the area for long. Nkaissery renewed the declaration in a gazette notice.

Inspector General of police Joseph Boinnet has reportedly renewed the order for surrender of firearms.

Boinnet asked residents of surrounding areas to surrender both legal and illegal firearms they may be having.

The weapons should be handed over at the nearest police stations or administrative offices during the day, for safe custody. “The notice will remain in force for 90 days and is subject to extension,” Boinnet said.

Western regional boss James Ole Serian is leading the operation and they have since recovered several weapons and other paraphernalia.

“The combined security units have discovered different Al-Shabaab hideouts inside the forest. The hideouts have already been destroyed and the weapons handed to the government,” he said.

Several Al-Shabaab members have been arrested and their camps destroyed since the operation was launched, termed as effective by security apparatus.

Reliable military and police reports indicates at least 15 heavily armed Al-Shabaab members were spotted in Mandera county this week that police suspects might be part of the group plotting terror attacks.

Kenya security agents are on high alert during the festive season to foil terrorists attacks that might plan to disrupt the annual holiday that has so far attracted both local and foreigners tourists.

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