Al Shabaab change tact, storm villages to lecture residents

Al Shaabab militants at a past training. The militants stormed Yumbis Village in Garissa where they harassed locals. [PHOTO: FILE/ STANDARD]

Garissa, Kenya: Suspected Al Shabaab militia stormed Yumbi border village in Fafi, Garissa County and lectured residents for hours before retreating back to Somalia.

The militia, who had sophisticated firearms, urged residents to support their mission of fighting the Kenyan government.

They castigated the government for harassing Muslims and abducting Muslim clerics. The group even mounted their flag in the villages as they lectured the locals.

Garissa deputy county commissioner, Fafi sub-county, Geoffrey Taragon said the armed men stormed the village at dusk on Wednesday and left on Thursday morning.

Cooked food

“The criminals lectured the people on why they were fighting Kenya. Majority of those they talked to were women and children since most men fled fearing for their lives,” he said.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said Kenyan security forces thwarted the attack after a fierce shootout.

He said a gang of armed Ugus militants was sighted at around 6pm Thursday by the public who alerted security forces. Security forces swiftly mobilised and engaged the militants in a gun battle.

“Security forces on Thursday evening thwarted an attempted attack at Yumbis village of Ijara constituency by suspected Al Shabaab militants,” said Njoka.

This is the second of such lecturers by the militia in the region. On Tuesday, they stormed border villages of Kawasalo and Tumtishi in Hullugho Sub-county, Garissa County, where they similarly lectured residents after herding them into mosques. Taragon said residents reported that the militia who were about 18 were led by a bearded old man, suspected to be Mohamed Kuno alias Gamadere, who has a bounty of Sh20 million on his head.

“They said they have no problem with common people and they were only interested in government officials, who they alleged were responsible or assisting in the harassment of innocent people from the region,” he added.

The deputy county commissioner said a contingent of security personnel including the Kenya Defence Forces and the national police service, were dispatched to the area to pursue the criminals, who fled towards Somalia.

He said the militia hijacked two vehicles — a Toyota and a Nissan — plying Yumbis Hagardera route after bundling out the occupants, then they used it to drive to the village. But on Thursday morning when they were retreating, they left the vehicles behind. Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett confirmed the incident but said the attempt was repulsed by detectives.

“Security forces last night ambushed an Al Shabaab mob harassing locals for food and water at Yumbis, Ijara. Attempted incursion was repulsed,” he said.

Residents who spoke to The Standard on Saturday on phone on condition of anonymity said they were forced to listen to long lectures belittling the government, for over two hours.

The militia had time to cook and eat food before they left in the morning. “We had to fight the temptation to fall asleep lest we are labelled traitors,” a resident said.

“The bearded man that led the lectures reported to be the leader of the group kept on smiling, laughing and interjected his lectures with jokes. He told the people they were ready for death,” another resident said.

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Al Shabaab Somalia