NAIROBI, KENYA: Security operation in Boni Forest in Lamu County will continue for the next three months after interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery declared it Dangerous and Disturbed Area.
This means locals who had been relying on the forest for their daily lives will have to keep off the area for long.
Nkaissery renewed the declaration on December 9 in a gazette notice. Inspector General of police Joseph Boinnet later told the Standard he had renewed order for surrender of firearms.
Boinnet asked residents of surrounding areas to surrender both legal and illegal firearms they may be having.
The weapons should be handed over to the nearest police stations or administrative offices during the day, for safe custody.
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“The notice will remain in force for 90 days and is subject to extension,” Boinnet said.
The army and police launched the operation in September and it was believed Al Shabaab was using the area to launch strikes in Kenya.
Western regional boss James Ole Serian is leading the operation and they have since recovered several weapons and other paraphernalia.
"The combined security units have discovered different Al Shabaab hideouts inside the forest. The hideouts have already been destroyed and the weapons handed to the Government," he said.
Officials said at least 3,000 people living near the forest were forced to leave so that the operation could go ahead.
The forest borders the Indian Ocean and extends to the Somalia border. It is home to the Lag Badana Bush Bush National Park on the Somalia side and Lacta Belt. It also extends to the Hulugho Division in Garissa.
It is believed that some of the militants had been using it in launching attacks in places like Mpeketoni where more than 60 people were killed last year.
The renewal of the declaration will continue to suffer as it had been their source of revenue in many ways. Local leaders have been complaining the operation was negatively affecting them.
Serian said there are more things that need to be carried out within the forest before it is opened to the public. The services include construction of roads and installation of communication masts to enhance easy mobility and communication.