The Kenya Defence Forces on Sunday resumed bombing Boni Forest in Lamu, the hideout of Al-Shabaab gangs who have been terrorising residents recently.
The forest has been home to one of Al-Shabaab’s elite groups, Jaysh Al-Ayman, who have been operating from there since 2012/13 in retaliation to the deployment of Kenyan soldiers to Somalia.
Residents living near the forest and who spoke to the Nation reported hearing loud blasts from inside the dense forest.
Sounds of explosions and military planes were heard as far away as Tana River county’s Garsen town and its environs.
The military had started dropping bombs into the dense forest early last month, but stopped to allow for the elections.
Mr Jamal Hajj said he heard sounds of explosions moments after planes passed near Nyongoro trading centre.
Tana Delta OCPD Mohammed Riziki Ali confirmed hearing the blasts, saying: “We have also heard huge blasts in Nyongoro. We don’t know what is happening but we have sent a team to establish and update us.”
Linda Boni Operation director Joseph Kanyiri repeated his Friday warning to residents living near the forest to move away in the next 48 hours, saying the government will proceed with plans to bombard Al-Shabaab hideouts.
He declined to confirm if the bombing has started, only saying that the government was serious about flushing out the terrorists from the forest.
He especially called on herders to leave the forest with their animals, saying those who will ignore the warnings would be treated as terrorists.
Mr Kanyiri, who addressed a press conference in Lamu, accused some of the herders of collaborating with the terrorists by giving them milk and food.
“I call on locals who are still living inside or near the forest to vacate. The bombing of Al-Shabaab hideouts in the forest will begin anytime soon or I can say it’s happening now.
The kind of bombing that will happen will be too hot for anyone to stay inside. I am aware that some herders have for several times been spotted grazing their animals inside Boni forest and its surrounding areas.
We will bomb the forest in a very short while and that’s why we are asking those around to move out. We are coming for the Al-Shabaab with a more serious force than ever before. If you don’t move out, we will bomb you and you won’t blame anyone,” said Mr Kanyiri.
He warned those leaking government information to the terrorists that they will face severe consequences.
“Let me make it clear to you that if you in any way give Al-Shabaab food and information, we will treat you as one of them. These people kill innocent people and you go ahead to assist them? We will hunt you and we will deal with you in the same manner we deal with them,” said Mr Kanyiri.
He said they had arrested several terror suspects who will soon be taken to court.
Mr Kanyiri also asked those who had fled camps for Internally Displaced Persons due to insecurity to go back there, saying the government would ensure they received maximum protection.
“Those in IDP camps should remain there until we are through with the operation in their villages. We shall give them a clearer report in two weeks’ time and let them know if they can or can’t go back yet,” said Mr Kanyiri.
More than 1,000 residents of Jima, Poromoko, Pandanguo, Kakathe, Maleli, Nyonmgoro and neighbouring areas in Witu division have been putting up at IDP camps set up at Katsaka Kairu and at the AIC church in Witu since early July this year.
The Linda Boni Operation to kick out Al-Shabaab militants was launched by the late Interior Cabinet Secretary Major (retired) General Joseph Nkaissery on September 15, 2015.