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Al Shabaab gangs storm Garissa mosques, threaten 'traitors' day after Ethiopian soldiers crossed to Kenya

KENYA: For the second time in many days, Kenya’s territorial integrity was compromised by armed men who took their time to try and stamp fear into locals before taking off.

Heavily armed militia, suspected to be Al Shabaab, stormed two mosques in Ijara Sub-county in Garissa on Tuesday night, and forced worshippers to listen for two hours to their tirade against the Kenya government, local civil servants and security officials before disappearing into a nearby forest.

It happened a day after Ethiopian soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles crossed into Kenya aboard 10 vehicles and took over a police station in North Horr.

In the Tuesday night incident, the Somali militia forced worshippers at two mosques in Tumtish and Kabasalo villages to listen to their fiery ideology and reportedly read out names of alleged spies and traitors during the ordeal that began at 6p.m.

The simultaneous raids on the villages caught two nearby military posts at Sangailu and Hulugho by surprise.

Kabasalo is about 10km from the military post at Hulugho while Tumtish lies about eight kilometres from the Sangailu Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) post.

Terror suspect

Hulugho OCPD Caleb Matoke told The Standard that “we received intelligence that the two groups were led by a wanted terror suspect called Mohamed Bilal.”

Matoke added that after the gang split, Bilal led the one that took over Kabasalo mosque.

According to Matoke, 25 militia took part in the two raids and he believes that “they were Al Shabaab who were sent by [Mohamed] Kuno.”

Kenyan has placed a Sh20 million bounty on Kuno’s head.

Kuno alias Gamadhere, a former teacher at an Islamic school in Garissa, is accused by Kenyan authorities of masterminding the April 2 terrorist carnage at Garissa University College in which close to 150 people, mostly students, were killed.

Kuno was not among the attackers Wednesday.

An intelligence officer who was among the worshippers in one of the mosques told The Standard Wednesday that “we listened in petrified silence as the men in jungle uniform with heavy weapons rounded us up, and began to preach against the Kenya Government, KDF and local officials they claim are spying on them.”

The officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, said the militants, who spoke Somali, forced worshippers to listen without asking any questions.

And the intelligence officer quoted the militants demanding the names and homes of local chiefs, police reservists and details of police stations and military posts.

When worshippers declined, the armed men took away a man from the mosque at Kabasalo for “intense” questioning, according to local residents who said they do not know what he told them.

Local police suspect the armed men were Al Shabaab who crossed into Kenya from Kulbiyow Somalia, several kilometres away, and have been hiding in the thick Boni Forest that runs through Garissa and Lamu counties.

Kuno is a former teacher at an Islamic school in Garissa where his family still lives but he traces his roots to Galmagala in southern Garissa. The Standard has established that Bilal was involved in a terrorist raid on Galmagala in 2013.

Local residents suspect the militia are planning attacks on police stations, military posts and the assassination of chiefs and civil servants stationed there.

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