Sunday July 9, 2017
Residents of Jima in Lamu leave the area on July 8, 2017. PHOTO | ATHMAN OMAR | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Al-Shabaab terrorists killed at least nine people on Friday night in Jima, just two kilometres from the Pandaguo police post where they killed four people on Wednesday.
The killings forced hundreds of people to flee their homes on Saturday, and a curfew has been imposed in the area.
Fifteen heavily armed terrorists are said to have rounded up the residents before beheading men only with knives.
Several people were also injured and taken to hospital in Lamu. Security was also intensified in Pandanguo, Jima and Poromoko villages after the incident.
Operation Linda Boni director James ole Seriani said security personnel were pursuing the attackers.
The residents said they had raised the alarm on Friday. One villager claimed to have seen a group of people suspected to be al-Shabaab terrorists but police are said to have downplayed their report.
However, some security bosses in Lamu termed the claims rumours whiles others were not willing to comment on the matter.
One of the residents, Mr Said Toto, told the Nation the men invaded the village around 11pm and went from house to house, pulling out men and beheading them.
“The men were tall and hooded. They were talking in Somali and had all sorts of weapons including guns and machetes. They started shooting randomly at us as we were running,” he said.
Mr Toto said: “I hid in the bush behind my house but I could hear them from where I was. They shouted that they were fighting for their land and that is why they wanted the non-locals to vacate the areas”.
Mr Kaingu Kadzomba, another resident, said the militants were also targeting only men from certain communities.
“We were shocked by the manner in which the militants were operating. They only targeted non-Muslims who are not natives of Lamu. All those who were killed were men,” said Mr Kadzomba.
By the time of going to press, residents from the surrounding villages of Kaisari, Poromoko, Nyatha, Jima and even Pandanguo were fleeing to safer places in Witu, Kipini and Mavuno.
In Majembeni, a planned demonstration by residents was cancelled at the last minute after security officers were directed to stop it.
According to Mr Alex Gitonga, the locals had planned to protest against the failure by the government to protect them and their property.
“There was an attack at Pandanguo on Wednesday and we thought the government would ensure such incidents don’t happen again. Now, nine people have been killed. We are not happy with the way the government is dealing with security in Lamu. We had planned to demonstrate from Majembeni, Kibaoni to the office of the assistant County Commissioner in Mpeketoni Town to air our grievances but we were prevented by police,” said Mr Gitonga.
But Mr Seriani called for vigilance from the public, saying the matter was under control.
“Forces are being mobilised from all areas to pursue the attackers. We have officers in the forest, at sea and in the area hunting for the militants. There is no cause for alarm and we call on the public to submit information to us if they find any suspicious individual,” he said.
Police sources in the area said the militants raided the two villages since they are inhabited by non-locals. They said the number of casualties was likely to increase since some residents who fled the village in Friday night had not yet been found.
Another police source, who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity, said the terrorists ransacked farms in Jima as they looked for non-Muslims but they didn’t succeed since farmers ran to Jima centre, Poromoko and Pandanguo just days after the Wednesday attack.
Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri has, however, denied reports that residents were fleeing their villages for fear of another attack.
“There was an attack in the night. Numbers not known,” said Mr Kanyiri in a text message.
Residents said they feared the terrorists could be planning attacks in other parts of the county.
The families are now living in fear, not knowing where the militants would strike next as more reports indicate that the terrorists are advancing towards Bar’goni in Lamu East.