Aisha Chengo (left) and her daughter-in-law Amina Juma in anguish as they mourn their relatives who were killed during Friday night attack in Jima village, Lamu County . [June Mugambi, Standard]
The survivors of last Friday’s attacks in Jima and Pandanguo recounted horrific tales of murder and evacuation to pave the way for a military operation.
Juma Bakari Chengo, 32, who feigned death after a killer’s knife missed his throat and cut below his left ear and jaw, was yesterday still breathing with difficulty at Mpeketoni hospital.
His father, Said Bingo Chengo, and an unidentified elder brother were among the nine people whose throats were slit by suspected terrorists during the attack at Jima and Pandanguo in Lamu West, Lamu County.
Bakari is still undergoing treatment at the Mpeketoni hospital after relatives failed to raise money to transfer him to Malindi or Mombasa for specialised treatment.
His mother, Aisha Chengo, said her husband and son were lured out of the house by the attackers.
“They tied their hands behind their back and slit their throats. They then threatened to return and kill all of us if we tried to scream to alert the neighbours,” said Mrs Chengo.
Her daughter, Maureen Chengo, said that after the attackers started walking to the next village, the remaining family members screamed to alert the neighbours.
“We were scared but felt obligated to alert the neighbours because they had already killed my father and brother,” said Maureen, adding that the attackers were dressed in police uniform.
A sobbing Mrs Chengo could not describe what she saw or heard during the attack, saying: “Naskia uchungu, uchungu moyoni.” (I am heart-broken).
Mr Kitheka Mutisya, another survivor, said the attackers, who were masquerading as police officers, surrounded his house.
He said when the attackers left shortly after stabbing Bakari, he (Bakari) whispered how he feigned death to escape a fatal blow. His condition deteriorated after he was rushed to hospital and has since gone into a coma.
Mutisya said the attackers arrived in the village at about 10pm on Friday but the police arrived at the scene on Saturday morning.
“They (attackers) were dressed in long green police attire but they did not have boots. They had cheap plastic shoes known as yeboyebo,” said Mutisya, who added that he could see the attackers from where he was hiding in the bush.
Kitheka linked the attack to the perennial land ownership disputes in Lamu, adding that no terrorist group, including Al Shabaab, had claimed responsibility.
“This is not terror attack. We are being killed because of land,” said Kitheka, noting that the attackers spoke fluent Kiswahili.
“The attackers told us that since we have refused to leave their land, we will continue to die,” he added.
He said in 2014 and 2015, similar attacks happened and the Government moved those affected from Jima Bondeni to Jima Mjini, which was attacked on Saturday.
Kitheka said like the 2014 and 2015 attacks, the most recent one coincided with the period when farm produce such as maize and beans is ripe for harvest.
Al-Shabaab attack police post in Lamu
“During the 2015 attacks, maize was ready for harvest. We left our produce and moved from Jima Bondeni to Jima Mjini. Now we are being forced to move out and leave our produce,” said.
Kitheka is among 20 men who were evacuated from Jimi Mjini and taken to the Africa Inland Church, where other survivors have pitched camp.
Questions abound about the recent escalation of attacks and the slow response of security agencies despite the fact that there is a multi-agency security operation in the area.
On Thursday, the head of the Kenya Defence Force, Samson Mwathethe, and Deputy Inspector General Samuel M. Arachi held a meeting with security officers at the Manda naval base.
According to a senior police source, there was a blame game between Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri and Operation Linda Boni director James ole Seriani over the attacks.
“Kanyiri said he has been sidelined in the operation. There was a general feeling that the Boni operation should be led by Arachi, who did a good job after the 2015 attacks,” said the source.
Kanyiri, County Police Commander Pamiuns Kioi, and County Investigation Department boss Prosper Bosire attended the meeting to evaluate the Boni forest operation.
Learning in most schools in the area has been disrupted as most students have fled to camps.
Two pupils found alive after Lamu blast