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Why Boni Forest has become the deadliest point in the war on terror

COAST
By Paul Wafula | July 14th 2017

Thursday's abduction of Public Works Principal Secretary Mariam El Maawy has raised the profile of Boni Forest further as one of the biggest impediments in the fight against Al Shabaab in the Coast region.

The abduction of the PS and six others in Milihoi, Lamu County, came just days after suspected members of the terror group raided villages in the region and beheaded nine people.

Ms El Maawy was rescued by Kenya Defence Forces and General Service Unit commandos hours after the terrorists captured her. The militants are believed to be using the forest as a cover for their activities.

The first assignment for acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i when he took over office last Saturday was to impose a three-month dusk-to-dawn curfew in Lamu and two neighbouring counties.

Holugho Border Point, Galmagala, Sangailu, Masalani, Bodehei, Milimani, Baure, Basuba, Mangai and Maralani are the areas affected by the curfew.

However, Boni Forest, which borders Somalia, continues to be a major headache for security officers. Last month, Coast Regional Co-ordinator Nelson Marwa called for the bombing of the expansive forest to wipe out Al Shabaab militants.

The forest stretches from Garissa County and covers 517 square miles. Classified as a national reserve, it has been the site of some of the bloodiest battles between the military and Al Shabaab.

The forest occasionally provides sanctuary for elephants and is also home to other wild animals. Thousands of coastal residents depend on it for their livelihoods.

Days after Mr Marwa asked for the forest to be bombed, a contingent of security personnel went hunting for the gang of about 150 who had killed three police officers and burned down Pandaguo Police Post in Lamu last month.

Attacks have increased in the recent past despite the ongoing Operation Linda Boni - a security effort to fight the militants in counties bordering Somalia. A frustrated Marwa even threatened to storm the forest and lead the operation to kick the militia out himself.

The militants have used the forest to launch several attacks in the region using improvised bombs. 

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