Dusk-to-dawn curfew takes effect in new police offensive

Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i . (Photo: Elvis Ogina/Standard)

Truckloads of General Service Unit and Administration Police arrived in Hola to implement the dusk-to-dawn curfew that went into effect in parts of Lamu, Tana River, and Garissa counties last evening.

Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on Saturday imposed a three-month curfew in the counties to contain escalating attacks by extremist group Al Shabaab. The order will run from July 9 to October 9, 2017.

Holugho Border Point, Galmagala, Sangailu, Masalani, Bodehei, Milimani, Baure, Basuba, Mangai, and Maralani are among the areas the curfew will apply.

Other regions include Ijara, Hola, Garsen, Kipini, Kiunga, and Ishakani/Dar-es-Salaam Border Point. The curfew excludes Lamu, Manda, and Pate islands. The directive came hours after the militants herded together nine men and killed them during an attack on Jima village, Lamu County.

The attack came days after another gang killed four police officers in Pandanguo. They also looted houses and burnt valuables.

As residents flocked to their houses , here were reports that the curfew was a prelude to a new offensive against the terrorists who have been gaining strength at the border and in the remote regions of the three counties.

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“We believe this is the beginning of a new offensive to rid this region of militants operating from the boundary regions,” said a security official who asked not to named.

Multi-agency task force

Journalists are not allowed in the targeted areas without the permission of the State.

The official further disclosed that the insurgency in parts of Lamu had grown lately due to laxity on the part of the security forces and failure to respond to intelligence. He brushed off claims that the recent attacks were political.

He also alleged that the multi-agency task force that has been in Lamu since 2015 lacked coordination and that there was low morale among officers, who are weary of booby traps.

“There is a growing fear of explosives planted on the road because police lack equipment to detect and decommission them,” the official said.

While some leaders in Lamu supported the curfew, most in Tana River opposed the new measures, saying they were unjustified because no violence had been reported in the region.

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Most security officials in these areas told The Standard that they were surprised by the Gazette notice published on Saturday declaring the curfew.

As trucks of GSU and AP officers rolled into Hola town, security sources indicated that the authorities believe the areas targeted for the curfew in Tana River had been infiltrated by insurgents from the northeastern region, especially Masalani in Ijara, through the main bridge on Tana River.

“We are going to implement the curfew and all are expected to be in their houses between 6pm and 6am,” said Tana river police boss Silvester Githungo.

The targeted areas fall within the triangle that has witnessed militia violence since early 2014 that culminated in the June 2014 massacre at Mpeketoni in Lamu.

Three years later, much of northern Lamu remains inaccessible and is sown with landmines and improvised explosive devices that have killed soldiers, policemen, and civilians.

Gained strength

Insurgents operating from the forested Boni area that straddles the three counties into Somalia have gained strength in these parts in recent months and have attacked remote police posts and human settlements and planted explosives on roads.

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Galole MP Hassan Dukicha said the curfew was unnecessary in Tana River, which he said had not experienced any violence this year.

“I wonder why Dr Matiang’i has decided to include Tana River,” he said.

Lamu Senate seat candidate David Mwaure supported the curfew, saying it was long overdue.

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