Police probe Al Shabaab terrorist cells in Kwale

One of the victims of terror-related killings Mwanapili Juma at her house in Bongwe village of Kwale County. She lost her husband to brutal killings and says that she cannot even construct her falling house. [Tobias Chanji, Standard]

Kwale security agents are on the alert to avert an impending attack.

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elungata yesterday said two terror cells are active in the county. He added that the insecurity cases witnessed in Kwale and Lamu are linked to local and domestic religious extremists groups.

He said the groups are recruiting members from Somalia and Mozambique. “All extremist elements are locals. In Lamu, the recent attacks were conducted by local youth,” Elungata said in Kwale.

Two chiefs in Kwale have since gone into hiding fearing attacks from the extremists, some believed to be Al Shabaab returnees from Somalia. The coordinator did not reveal the names of the said cells or the areas they are operating in. He added that the groups could attack during the election like in the past.

“In the 2013 and 2017 elections, we witnessed terror attacks in rural areas. We have asked law enforcement officers to be extra vigilant this time,” the regional coordinator said.

He said security agencies are still pursuing the assailants who attacked villagers and security officers in Lamu. Elungata, however, said it is clear that the attack was carried out by locals.

He addressed participants at the inter-county exchange forum on preventive countering of violent extremism that started yesterday in Kwale.

Participants from Kwale, Kilifi, Nakuru, and Isiolo counties are deliberating how to counter religious extremists groups in the country.

The participants observed that cases of violent extremism have reduced in the country compared to the end of 2000 when several mosques in Mombasa were closed down following accusations of spreading hate. 

Human Rights Agenda (HURIA) chairman Prof Halimu Shauri yesterday said the organisation is conducting research that will also recommend ways to combat terrorism.

Coast Regional Police Commander Manase Musyoka said police will conduct security operations in any part of the region to flush out terrorists.

“It should be known that the police have also been given powers under the constitution and other laws to deal with people causing insecurity. We will not hesitate,” Musyoka said.

The state has deployed Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) personnel in Lamu county to root out militants following the killings of two more people at Kibaoni last week.

Four police officers were killed in an IED attack at the Milihoi area in Mkunumbi on Garsen-Lamu road. The police vehicle was hit by the explosive fired by the militants after escorting a convoy of vehicles from Gamba in Tana River to Lamu County. The government has imposed a curfew in most parts of Lamu West to deal with insecurity.

Additional reporting by Jacinta Mutura.

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Al Shabaab Kwale