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November 20, 2018

US troops join war on Shabaab in Boni Forest

Inspector Ge- neral of Police Joseph Boinnet with other senior officers during a tour of Boni Forest, Lamu county, on June 5, 2016 /ALPHONCE GARI
Inspector Ge- neral of Police Joseph Boinnet with other senior officers during a tour of Boni Forest, Lamu county, on June 5, 2016 /ALPHONCE GARI

Investigations reports estimate about 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops have partnered with Kenya in wiping al Shabaab militants from the vast Boni Forest in Lamu.

They are reportedly playing a significant role in combating the Jaysh Aman cell of the terror group in the forest.

Troops from the US and the UK are on the ground in Somalia and they mainly operate with drones.

A senior KDF official told the Star that the troops are operating from a US built military airbase at Manda Bay in Lamu to coordinate joint operations with Kenyan troops.

The US operation are mainly concentrated at the ocean.

“We have foreign forces, including the US, who are assisting  us in counterinsurgency operations. They help us in logistics and training," the officer, who declined to be named, said.

However, National Police Service spokesman  Charles Owino said the operation Boni is purely an internal affair that only involves Kenyan troops.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Owino said the operation has been successful and must be sustained by multiagency unitsthat involve KDF, GSU, regular police, Administration police, NIS and the National Youth Service

“We have managed to restore normalcy in  the entire  Lamu county. Many people who had moved out of the forest  have now returned and schools reopened, ” Owino said.

He insisted that only Kenyan security forces are engaging the militants on the ground in Lamu and not foreign troops. He however said they were offering some assistance.

He however said al Shabaab remains a security threat until Somalia becomes stable again.

Reports say the militants have frustrated the  Operation Linda Boni launched in 2015 by mounting Improvised explosive Devices within the forest.

Al Shabaab infiltrated the forest and used it as an operation base for recruiting and planning terror attacks in Coast.

On Wednesday, the government released names and photos of seven most wanted members of the Jaysh Aman cell operating from Boni and placed  a Sh2 million bounty on each.

They are Idriss Issack, Mohamed, Abdullahi Diyat alias Ubeyd, Sharif Arab, Ahmed Mohammed aka Jerry, Andikadir Haret Mohammed Yusuf Kuno aka Abu Ali and Ahmed Bashir.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the seven are believed to be operating on the Kenya-Somalia border and allegedly behind terror attacks in the Northeastern region, particularly in Mandera county.

He added that the suspects were instrumental in the planning and execution of the Bisharo lodge attack in October 2016, and the Jibane and Arabia attacks in February.

Last year the British government vowed to deploy more troops in Somalia despite threats from Al-Shabaab militants.

  A spokesman at the British High Commission in Kenya Stephen Burns said its soldiers will not fight with the insurgents, but they will assist African peacekeepers with logistics to counter terror threats .

 “We anticipate providing core support and advice on logistical hubs and movements; engineering support for infrastructure projects; and much needed training in use of field medical packs,” Burns said

Burns disclosed the UK operations will be led by the United Nations Support Office for the African ( UNSOA) and the UN Department for Field Services in Somalia.

A number of people, including security officers, have been killed in attacks by militants who often use IEDs.

The operation was launched by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and other top security bosses.

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