KDF scores major victory with last week’s killing of Al Shabaab militia
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers have dealt a severe blow on the Al Shabaab by killing 11 militia in Boni forest, last week, military sources say. “It is a very big blow to a generation of well-trained foreign fighters and those from Mombasa and surrounding areas,” said a senior intelligence officer in Mombasa. For over a year, the Al Shabaab operated from the vast Boni forest, which borders Somalia where they launched a series of attacks in a number of towns and villages, including Lamu and Tana River in June and July last year.
The attacks on Mpeketoni town and Hindi, Poromoko villages and Gamba Police Station in Tana River claimed 94 lives. Last Sunday’s raid on KDF camp at Baure, 39 kilometres north of Bargoni in northern Lamu was the group’s most audacious attack on a military facility inside Kenya. The raiders launched a brazen attack with rocket and machine gun fire that appears to have caught KDF by surprise, leading to the death of two soldiers. An investigation is underway on how the militants were able to stage the raid when the forces were on high alert since it was the first anniversary of last year’s attacks.
A day to the attack, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett had announced that the militiawere planning another attack to mark last year’s attacks. In the weeks preceding last Sunday’s attack, there was heightened militant activity in southern Garissa, targeting the military and police in areas bordering Boni Forest and Lamu. On May 12 in Korahindi in Ijara, militants suspected to have been sent by Mohamed Kuno alias Gamadheere detonated an improvised explosive device on a KDF truck, setting it ablaze and injuring three soldiers.
The militants then stormed mosques in Sangailu and Hulugho areas and staged raids on police convoys in Fafi Sub-county of Garissa, in which the police officer was killed. A day before last Sunday’s raid on KDF at Baure, militants, suspected to be from the same group that attacked Mpeketoni looted a hospital in Mangai area of Lamu, indicating that they were re-stocking for another attack. Sources say the attacks in Lamu were committed by Jaysh al Ayman, a terrorist allied to Al Shabaab, which has a limited number of foreign fighters.
Islamic schools Jaysh al Ayman was reportedly formed in 2001 in Mombasa and drew inspiration from slain radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Sheikh Sharif Abubakar alias Makaburi. “Most of its members hail from Kisauni and Majengo in Mombasa and Malindi,” said military sources who believe that most of those killed last Sunday were recruited to Jaysh al Ayman between 2005 and 2008. The sources believe that some of them had links to Musa Mosque in Mombasa and the warren of Islamic schools on the Coast where Rogo and Makaburi preached. Many of the group’s militants were killed by police in Kisauni and Likoni areas of Mombasa in June and July 2013.
According to a military source, many of those killed last Sunday fled underground and received orders to leave Mombasa following Makaburi’s murder in April last year. Despite Rogo’s and Makaburi’s deaths, their ideological disciples appear to have sustained this group, including giving the final orders for the Mpeketoni massacre in collaboration with Al Shabaab central in Kuday area of southern Somalia. The first casualties of the KDF counter-attack on Sunday were British Jihadist Thomas Evans alias Abdul Hakim, a Christian convert to Islam, suspected to have participated in the June 2014 attack.”
For over a year, we had received reports that there was a white man among the militants who attacked Mpeketoni last year, but now we know it was Thomas Evans,” said Chrispus Mutali, the Lamu County Administration Police commander. He reportedly beheaded villagers in subsequent massacres in Hindi, Gamba Police Station besides commanding raids on buses on the Malindi-Lamu highway. He was filming the raid. His camera was captured when he was killed last Sunday, enabling KDF to capture invaluable footage of the group’s other attacks. He is believed to have been the deputy of Luqman Issa Osman, the commander of the group in Boni Forest, who was also killed in last Sunday’s clash.
Mutali said Luqman’s and Thomas’ fall will diminish recruitment of local and foreign fighters in this region.” We have now turned the tables on this group and we do not expect it to recover,” he said. But he admitted that the difficult terrain in the vast Boni forest remains an ideal hiding place for hundreds of Al Shabaab militants despite the set backs they have suffered. Out of 11 bodies at the Mpeketoni District Hospital Mortuary, the State and relatives have identified only three bodies as those of Said Abdalla Hemed alias Said Hamza and Abdulkadir Rehani and Luqman Osman Issa, all residents of Mombasa.
Briton Thomas Evans alias Abdul Hakim’s corpse was positively identified as Thomas’ by US forensic experts who matched his DNA with his family’s at Manda Bay Naval Base last Sunday. Meanwhile, other reports indicate one of the bodies is suspected to belong to a native of Malindi only known as Jamal.
However, no body has come forward to claim it. Intelligence sources told The Standard on Sunday that Luqman’s younger brother, Ibrahim Osman Issa, was killed in Afghanistan in 2001 while another brother, Issa Osman Issa, co-planned the 2002 terrorist bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi. Ibrahim left home in 1999 and is believed to have died in 2000 in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban. According to a Government report seen by The Standard on Sunday, Luqman’s other brother Issa Osman Issa “was involved in the Kikambala bombing in 2002” and is in jail.
Reports indicate Hemed lived in Mombasa’s Old Town and worshiped at Mlango wa Papa Mosque in the area before vanishing to Somalia in June last year. He operated a tour company, Marhaba Tours in Mombasa a few years ago.