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Villagers worry as heavily armed 'al-Shabab' seen in Boni Forest

LAMU (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan authorities on Monday issued a terror alert after suspected group of heavily armed suspected al-Shabab militants were sighted within the vast Boni forest in coastal Kenya’s Lamu county.

The militants numbering to at least 200 were sighted by honey harvesters who were going on their business in Belasange area inside the Boni forest when they stumbled upon the large group of militants.

The militants are reported to have fired at about 20 civilians but no one was injured as they managed to escape back to safety and reported the incident.

Locals around the area said they are now living in fear of the militants who are obviously lurking around their villages.

"We worry that they could attack us anytime now.

"That has always been the trend.

"If they are in the forest at this time, it only means that they are preparing to launch an attack somewhere in the county or beyond.

"We are worried," said Msuo Suli, a village head and honey harvester.

There was no immediate comment from Kenyan authorities on the presence of the militants in the tourism resort region.

One of the youth who witnessed the incident Hussein Hamisi, said:

"We had noticed so many footprints which suggested there had been a group of people and out of curiosity, we followed.

"That is when we came upon them.

"We knew it was al-Shabab.

"We could see guns and other arms.

"They were in a camp more or less since, we could see tents," said Hamisi.

"There was smoke also which implied that they were cooking.

"From the look of things, they had been there for several weeks now.

"When they saw us they fired in our direction while others fired in the air.

"We just fled," he added.

Following the incident, locals in the area now want the government to increase security patrols to avert and combat any possible terror attacks that could be in the pipeline.

Previous reports have indicated that al-Shabab militants have set base and homes inside the forest from where they operate and live with their families.

The area is home to at least 2,000 people from the Boni minority community who are traditionally hunters and gatherers.

The Pandanguo village has however become the perfect target and get-away for al-Shabab militants.

On July 5, 2017, over 200 al-Shabab militants raided the village, ransacked all houses and made away with cutlery, foodstuff and clothes, leaving the villagers with nothing.

The village and many others close to the Boni forest all fall within security operation zones that are currently underway.

The Boni forest is currently under a security operation dubbed the Linda Boni Operation which is meant to flush out al-Shabab militants who are believed to be hiding from where they continue to launch attacks on various parts of the county and beyond.

The operation was launched by the national government in 2015 and is being conducted by among other units the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and other security agencies.


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