Dozens of attackers who raided and killed residents in Lamu and Tana River counties over the past month, are hiding in a forest in the area, have run out of food supplies, and are attacking local villages to get food and medicine for their survival, locals and government officials revealed.
On Sunday gunmen attacked Pandanguo village in Lamu for a second time in one week, shot in the air to scatter locals and broke into houses carrying away food and other valuables.
They also hijacked a truck carrying wholesale food supplies, and took away all the food before they released the driver and turn boy unharmed, Miiri Njenga, Lamu County commissioner, said.
The same gunmen, locals said, descended on an area farm and harvested two acres of green maize which they disappeared with into Boni forest.
Pandanguo village was attacked last week by gunmen who burnt an administration block, classes and a store in a local school, burnt houses, and broke into a dispensary stealing all drugs, mosquito nets and other medical supplies.
“We have information that the gang which has been attacking this area is hiding in the Boni forest to avoid a crackdown by our security personnel. It seems they are running out of food and medical supplies, and that is why it is possible that they could be the ones raiding villages specifically to get food for their survival in the forest,” a senior government official who asked not to be named, told Baraka FM.
“But they won’t be in hiding for long. We are planning an operation to smoke them out, dead or alive, and that is going to be very soon. We know apart from just hiding from arrest, they could probably be planning other criminal activitiesm,” the official said.
He said the forest was very big and security personnel could not go in blindly, saying they needed to plan before.”
The driver and turn boy of the hijacked truck had been arrested for questioning, the official said.
“We have reason to believe they are part of the bigger gang. They seem to have stage managed the hijacking.”
Locals said they had spotted dozens of men in the forest and reported to authorities.
“Nothing has been done. Police know, just like we do, that the deadly gang is in that forest, because we keep telling them, but they just won’t go there. They (police) seem to be scared as well, which leaves us only at the mercy of God,” Abubakar Shabi, a resident of Pandanguo, said.
Police and military helicopters have been seen flying over the forest in the past days, in what is seen as an exercise to map out the exact location of the attackers before security personnel can stage an operation.
Residents said they hoped the suspects would be dealt with from their hideout before they launched another deadly attack.