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Al-Shabaab militants flee after six hours battle with KDF in Kenya

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - A multi-agency team led by Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] repulsed Al-Shabaab attack in Kenya's coastal town of Lamu, authorities said.

The Saturday night attempted raid came amid hawk-eyed surveillance by security agents following persistent attacks by the Somalia-based militants.

Armed with sophisticated weapons, locals said, the over 50 militants stormed Panganguo village, located near the porous Kenya-Somalia border, officials said.

It was the third attack in the county within three weeks in the region, which borders Boni Forest, a section in which gas been earmarked as terror hotbed.

Militants interrogated a farmer

The militants interrogated a farmer identified as Hashim, demanding to know the security presence in the region, an elder told the media.

Adan Golja, the elder, said: "They asked him about the security status in our area, including how many police and military camps are there."

But after the 20-minute grilling, the farmer informed them about the heavy presence of KDF and GSU in the area, Golja said.

Security had been heightened in the region following the recent raid at US Naval Base which left three Americans dead.

Moments after the encounter, the elder said, he immediately reported the matter to National Police Reservists, who responded by opening fire.

Security forces repulse the attack

Soon afterward, KDF and GSU officers joined the battle which lasted for around six hours, the elder said, adding that the militants "gave up and disappeared".

But the militants are said to have been after foodstuffs, given the ongoing hunger in several areas controlled by them in Somalia.

The elder added: “They then ordered him to go back to the village and allow them to harvest maize from the farm."

However, before disappearing to the dense Boni Forest, the militants harvested maize in the village as they engaged the security in a gunfight.

Fierce critic exchange of gunfire started at around 10 pm local time to 3 am on Sunday, reports indicated.

"They, however, managed to harvest almost all the maize in the one-acre farm before they fled deep into the dense Boni Forest," said Mr. Golja.

Both the Kenyan government and Al-Shabaab have not issued a statement about possible casualties but it's believed that nobody died.

Irungu Macharia, the Lamu County Commissioner, confirmed the incident adding that "KDF has combed the area, nothing was spotted."

The officer added that "I urge Pandanguo residents not to vacate their village since their security is guaranteed."

Operation at Boni Forest

When US Naval Base was attacked, residents are said to have vacated the region for fear of more perilous attacks, local media said.

For over two years now, the government has been conducting an operation at the Boni Forest, which is often used by the militants to penetrate the country.

US Africa Command deployed East Africa Response Forces (EARF) to Lamu early this month after the attack. The forces work closely with KDF.

On Thursday, the US said "locals facilitated the militants during the attack. The Al-Shabaab are on their way to Somalia."

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday hosted security chiefs in Mombasa where he vowed to crush the Al-Shabaab militants.

Among others, Uhuru asked the officers to identify the economic activities of the militants "for possible embargoes" and sanctions.

Five suspects arrested in Nairobi

Hours after the attempted raid in Lamu, security forces in Nairobi intercepted five men believed to have been planning another attack, officials said.

Among the items recovered from the terror suspects were a car, one pair of Kenyan Airforce trousers, a jungle t-shirt, a jungle hut and a jungle pair of trousers.

Also recovered was money in various currencies and denominations, a laptop, a US passport, a US embassy security card, and various cheques.

The suspects were identified as Mohamed Hassan Bario (Somalia national), Mohamed Adan (Kenyan driver), Hodan Abdi Ismail (Somalia national), Ms. Ifrah Mohammed Abshir (Somalia national) and Mohamed Abas Mohamud (a US citizen).