Over 20 people including foreigners were detained along the Mombasa-Malindi highway on Sunday, by Kenya Defense Forces officers who had mounted a rare roadblock around Msabaha area, five kilometers from Malindi town.
The officers stopped all vehicles, both private and public, conducted thorough checks on luggage and vehicle interior, and arrested anybody who did not have identification documents.
Among those detained were foreign nationals, believed to be tourists, who an officer in the operation said had failed to present passports.
Some of the foreigners had also expired visas, meaning they were in the country illegally, the officer, who did not want to be named, told Baraka FM.
“The soldiers are arresting them and telling them to sit down on the ground, and they are heavily armed,” a witness living around the scene, told Baraka FM.
The officer said the crackdown targeted mainly motorists who were travelling from Garissa, Lamu and Malindi towards Mombasa, but declined to confirm reports that it was linked to prior security-related intelligence.
“Some of them are telling us they forgot passports and ID cards at home and hotels, but we are not taking that on face value. We have asked them to call and have the documents brought to them here,” the officer, said.
Locals criticised the exercise, alleging the soldiers were mistreating the motorists.
“They are manhandling and beating up some people and that is not fair. This is not the first time they have done this. I don’t know what they are looking for,” said a witness.
The officer denied the accusations.
The crackdown caused a huge traffic pile up that lasted over four hours, with some of those arrested having to be left behind by vehicles even after paying bus fare to Mombasa from Lamu, Garissa and Malindi.
It was not immediately clear whether and where those arrested would be detained.