Al-Shabaab militants sighted in Kenya, preach to locals
NAIROBI, Kenya - Dozens of suspected militants from Somalia-based Al-Shabaab have been sighted in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, residents have reported, in the wake of a crackdown by authorities.
According to corroborating information given by residents, the militants have strategically occupied Dadbule, within Wajir South.
For the last two months, the Al-Qaida associated group has intensified attacks in Kenya, killing close to 20 people in separate incidents, officials said.
Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and Lamu counties are the worst hit, due to their proximity to Somalia, interior minister Dr. Fred Matiang'i said.
Militants relocated from Garissa
And the militants, locals said, are believed to have run away from neighboring Garissa, where they had executed a series of attacks.
Dadbule is barely 21 kilometers from Kamuthe center in Garissa, where the militants killed three children and a teacher last month.
Estimated to be around 12, the militants have been roaming in the villages, warning locals against informing security forces, residents claimed.
“They were 12 of them and were armed with weapons,” said Ms. Mariam Ibrahim, adding that "they are preaching to us".
Suspected camp established
At Dadbule, reports indicate, the militants have established a camp where they are training besides plotting series of attacks.
Interestingly, they are said to have been depending on three donkeys for mobility and sharing a water point with the locals there.
Another resident who did not want to be named said, “The group mostly walks around with AK-47 rifles and RPGs and when they come to fetch water some of them act as guards.”
The militants, the source told local media, have been receiving foodstuffs from the neighborhood using a vehicle with Kenyan registration numbers.
It is suspected that the vehicle comes from Garissa County using cut lines to get to the militia group, reports indicate.
Police post and masts targeted
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta warned about homegrown terrorists, arguing that locals may be aware of recruitments within the region.
And their presence it the region indicates that the militants could be recruiting school going boys and the area may be used as a command base.
Kenya has been the worst hit by growing insurgency, with hundreds of locals believed to have crossed over to Somalia to join the militants.
It is suspected that the militants are targeting masts located in Nanighi, Korakora and also Bura East Police Station, locals said.
A mass exodus of non-locals
Due to increased attacks that target non-locals, hundreds of teachers and doctors have camped in government offices demanding transfers.
Northeastern region, which is largely marginalized, depends on services from non-locals, who have borne the brunt in Al-Shabaab attacks.
On Friday last week, suspected Al-Shabaab militants bought a goat worth $40, residents said.
Many hospitals and schools have temporarily closed down, with the ongoing mass exodus of civil servants from the region, officials said.
Ongoing crackdown against Al-Shabaab
President Uhuru ordered a crackdown against the militants, calling for an onslaught against "unscrupulous businessmen funding these enemies".
Dr. Matiang'i, who is responsible for internal security, said security forces had nabbed three people "ferrying contraband goods from Dadaab".
The refugee camp has been used as an Al-Shabaab training cell in the past decade but the UN has opposed efforts to close it down.
Local leaders led by Senator Yusuf Haji, said: "We should arm our people so that they can deal with these terrorists causing havoc in our country".
But Matiang'i, who had attended local meetings in Garissa last week, called for close collaboration between locals and security forces to eradicate Al-Shabaab militants.
He said: “We are going to reactivate peace committees and introduce a structure on how the information will be shared within the security agencies."
Two buses have been attacked in a span of two months in Wajir, a move that informed the government's decision to deploy more special forces.