Al-Shabaab launches record 16 raids in Kenya within two months
NAIROBI, Kenya - Al-Shabaab raids within Kenyan soil is on an upward trajectory, something which could alter the current approach in the fight against the Somalia-based militants.
Previously, the militants used to strike after long spells, mostly targeting shopping malls, hotels and even bars within Kenya, with some raids also targeting security forces.
But in the last two months, records show that the militants have struck 16 times, the highest in the country's history as far as the war against terrorism is concerned within the same period.
In the process, records show, at least 20 people have died and over 50 injured, with the militants focusing mainly in Lamu, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties.
Of the deaths, non-locals and security forces are major victims, even as Garissa recorded eight raids of the 16, clearly putting it as one of terror hotbed in the country.
Already, several non-local teachers have left en mass northeastern part of the country, with their employer, TSC, defending the transfers, saying "we cannot watch teachers dying anymore".
But in a rejoinder, Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Dhere, ordered "immediate" evacuation of non-locals, saying "we don't need them, we have enough intellectuals who can take over".
However, the withdrawal has left most learning facilities in the region deserted, forcing leaders to call for "urgent intervention" by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The frequent raids forced Uhuru to summon security chiefs to a crisis meeting early this year, in which he vowed to crush the militants, saying "we shall also freeze businesses of their financiers".
Of these raids, the most shocking came at Manda Airfield, a military base used by the US, in which three Americans died. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, said: "We were caught unprepared".
But last week, the US military announced killing an Al-Shabaab operative in Saakow town, Middle Juba, claiming that "he was the mastermind of Manda Airfield" attack.
Last month, Townsend visited Kenya and Somalia, holding a series of meetings with local leaders and security forces over productive strategy in the Al-Shabaab war.
“Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is an evil and remorseless enemy of peace, stability, and freedom in East Africa and threatens the very way of life of people there, as well as Americans and US interest in the region and abroad," he said.
"Alongside its partners, Africom continues to take action to prevent Al Shabab from planning and conducting external attacks."
The latest report by Armed Conflict, Location and Event Data indicates that Al-Shabaab has killed over 4,000 civilians in the last decade, with a majority being in Somalia.
Although the militants have been waging sporadic attacks, a recent report by the UN indicated that most of them have either surrendered or moved to urban areas due to frequent US airstrikes in remote villages of Somalia.
Further, the group is also fighting internal conflicts, which have seen many fighters quit. Most of those who surrender have been repatriated to the community, officials in Somalia said.
So fierce has been the fallout that the differences have seen expulsion of its two senior commanders Bashir Qorqab and Mahad Karate by their ailing senior, Ahmed Diriye.