Lamu, KENYA: A group of heavily armed suspected Al Shabaab militants have been sighted at Belasange area, several kilometers from the Pandanguo village which falls within the Boni forest in Lamu county.
The militants numbering to at least 200 were sighted by honey harvesters who were going on their business inside the Boni forest when they stumbled upon the large group of militants.
The militants are reported to have fired at the civilians who,20 in number, upon being discovered but lucky enough, no one was injured as they managed to escape back to safety and reported the incident.
Locals around the area are now living in fear of the militants who are obviously lurking around their villages.
“We worry that they could attack us anytime now. That has always been the trend. If they are in the forest at this time, it only means that they are preparing to launch an attack somewhere in the county or beyond. We are worried,” said Msuo Suli, a village head and honey harvester.
According to one of the youths who witnessed the incident Hussein Hamisi, they had noticed a huge patch of footprints and had decided to pursue when they came upon the militants in what seemed to be their base deep inside the Boni forest.
“We had noticed so many footprints which suggested there had been a group of people and out of curiosity, we followed. That’s when we came upon them. We knew it was Al Shabaab. We could see guns and other arms. They were in a camp more or less since we could see tents. There was smoke also which implied that they were cooking. From the look of things, they had been there for several weeks now. When they saw us they fired in our direction while others fired in the air. We just fled,” said Hussein.
Following the incident, locals in the area now want the government to increase security patrols to avert and combat any possible terror attacks that could be in the pipeline.
The area is home to at least 2000 people from the Boni minority community who are traditionally hunters and gatherers.
The Pandanguo village has, however, become the perfect target and get-away for Al Shabaab militants whenever the militants come calling.
On July 5, 2017, over 200 Al Shabaab militants raided the village, ransacked all houses and made away with cutlery, foodstuff and clothes, leaving the villagers with nothing.
The village and many others close to the Boni forest all fall within security operation zones that are currently underway.
The Boni forest is currently under a security operation dubbed the Linda Boni Operation which is meant to flush out Al Shabaab militants who are believed to be hiding within from where they continue to launch attacks on various parts of the county and beyond.
The operation was launched by the national government in 2015 and is being conducted by among other units the Kenya Defense Forces-KDF, Anti-terror Unit, the National Intelligence Service-NIS, the Recce Squad, the General Service Unit-GSU and Kenya Forest Service-KFS.
Efforts to reach the KDF spokesperson David Obonyo for comments were futile as his phone were off.
Efforts to also have the Coast Region Commander Noah Mwavanda were also futile as his phone was also switched off.