Kenyan Military Hunts Coast Attackers Near Somalia BorderJoseph Burite
Kenyan security forces are searching a forest near the border with Somalia for attackers who killed at least 87 people near the country’s coast over the past month.
Kenya’s military destroyed at least four camps being used by the assailants in Boni Forest, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation newspaper reported, citing people it didn’t identify. The security forces suspect the attackers are a band of radicalized youth trained by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militia who have returned to Kenya from fighting in Somalia after losing ground to African Union peacekeepers, it said.
“The security forces are combing the forest to make sure the attackers have no safe haven,” Lamu County Commissioner Njenga Miiri said in a phone interview today. “Operations are still under way.”
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for attacks at the coast, including one at Mpeketoni in Lamu county in which at least 60 people died in mid-June. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government says political and land grievances motivated the assaults.
Al-Shabaab has threatened to attack Kenya in retaliation for the country’s deployment of troops in Somalia, where the militia is trying to overthrow the government and establish Shariah, or Islamic law. Kenyatta has vowed to keep the troops in place until the threat of al-Shabaab is thwarted.
Tourism, the country’s biggest foreign-currency earner after tea, has been dented by attacks in the country, with arrivals of holidaymakers falling 18 percent to 1.4 million last year.
The High Court in Mombasa on July 9 charged two people with murder in connection with the attack in Mpeketoni, including Mahadi Swaleh Mahadi, a Malindi-based businessman. Dyana Salim Suleiman is accused of being the driver of one of the vans used in the raid. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court will tomorrow rule on Salim’s bail application that was granted before prosecutors appealed for a review, citing developments in Lamu. Mahad Swaleh’s bail application will be heard by Judge Martin Muya on July 21, his lawyer, A.B. Olaba, said today.
The Mombasa-based court today gave the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions one more month to investigate Lamu Governor Issa Timamy’s alleged involvement in the attacks. Prosecutors had sought a two-month extension, citing difficulties in finding witnesses as people in Lamu continue to be displaced by violence.
Timamy, who hasn’t been charged, denies he had anything to do with the killings and “more time to investigate will not change the fact that I’m innocent,” he told reporters today at the court.