By: BERNARDINE MUTANU
Six Al-Shabaab camps have been destroyed in the past two months and an assortment of weapons seized in the ongoing “Operation Linda Boni”.
But while the government enumerates the strides it has made in the war against the militants along the coastal strip, Police spokesman Charles Owino on Friday advised citizens to be extra vigilant as new intelligence reports indicate the terrorists are sneaking into the towns of Mandera, Garissa and Wajir.
“Following sustained pressure by our gallant soldiers in Somalia, we have intelligence that they are sneaking into our northern towns of Mandera, Garissa and Wajir,” Mr Owino said.
“We urge citizens in those places and Kenyans at large to be alert on strangers moving into their villages and towns and report them to the police or any security agency,” said Mr Owino at a press briefing on the progress of Operation Linda Boni.
He said the destruction of the camps was a big step in the war against terrorism for the men in uniform and the government in general in the campaign against Al-Shabaab.
The terror group was believed to use the forest to launch attacks on Kenyans as well as a conduit for new recruits to join the group’s members in Somalia.
LIST OF SUCCESSES
Two Tanzanians, Masoud Khamis and Twaha Rashid, were arrested last month while they were on their way to Somalia allegedly to join the terror group. They have already been charged in court.
“Security agencies also recovered weapons that were stolen by Al-Shabaab during the Mpeketoni attacks,” he said, adding that the movement of terror group’s members in the forest have been “deterred and disrupted”.
Mr Owino listed the successes the operation has garnered as it enters its third month.
“(The) security situation has improved for the people of Boni and its environs,” he said.
People who fled Milimani, Pandanguo and Maharani have returned to their homes as normalcy returns in the area, said Mr Owino.
He said the government had in the past two months established eight police posts in Kiunga, Basuba, Milimani, Pandanguo, Maharani, Witu, Wema and Kipini and that even after the lapse of the period of the operation “security agencies’ presence will be sustained in the area”.
Other measures the government is taking to flush out Al-Shabaab along the coastal strip include gazetting the Boni Forest as a reserve, improving the road network in the area and putting up communication masts.
“The government has collaborated with the private sector to improve communication infrastructure. Safaricom is currently installing communications masts in Budhei, Manga and Pandanguo,” said Mr Owino.
Three airstrips in Hulugo, Kiunga and Budhei are earmarked for renovation, he said and added that soon deputy commissioners will be posted in Lamu West, Lamu East, Hulugo and Ijara.
At the same time, Mr Owino directed police commanders to be prepared “to ensure that civil agents such as ambulances, fire brigades and hospitals are up to the task” to respond to emergencies when they arise.
He instructed police officers to be alert and to work closely with colleagues and counterparts as the militants could take advantage of the rainy season to launch attacks. Police are watchful to note movements at night, he said.
“Just like others, Kenya is under threat from terrorism. We are at war with an invisible enemy, who looks like us and lives among us. This calls for each and every person to be extra vigilant at all times; we must be our brothers’ keepers and be conscious of our surrounding,” said Mr Owino.
Meanwhile, he said that regarding security, the country is ready for Pope Francis’ visit next Wednesday.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION