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February 17, 2019

Cops hunt for militants after ambush in terror hotspot

Security officers patrol the Boni forest for suspected Al shabaab militants.
Security officers patrol the Boni forest for suspected Al shabaab militants.

Security agencies in Lamu on Friday were searching for al Shabaab militants who attacked a police car and killed one officer on the Lamu-Garsen road in Milihoi.

The vehicle was carrying six officers. Two others suffered injuries during the Thursday ambush. They were returning to the Mpeketoni police base, Lamu West, after ferrying inmates to Hindi Prison.

The Land Cruiser went up in flames. Another private car heading to Lamu was also caught up in the fire. Two occupants of the car escaped unhurt, but they are missing. Police said they have no idea where they fled.

There are fears they fell into the hands of the militants and were taken hostage. However, an officer who sought anonymity said the duo could have been killed in the heavy gunfire that followed. Security agencies and the suspected militants were locked in a shootout that lasted for more than an hour.

Lamu county AP coordinating commander Charles Mbatu said they will concentrate the operation in Milihoi and Boni Forest and environs. Militants use the forest as their hideout. The Linda Boni Operation was launched in September 2015 to flush them out.

“We are still very much on the ground pursuing the suspects,” Mbatu said.

The two injured officers were rushed to the Mpeketoni Subcounty Hospital, Lamu West, on Thursday, but were referred on Friday for specialised treatment

The attack had disrupted transport on the road for hours. Motorists leaving and heading to Lamu were turned away.

Milihoi is a terror hotspot. Many security officers and civilians have lost their lives at the hands of al Shabaab militants.

On July 13 last year, then-Public Works PS Mariam El Maawy, her nephew and four bodyguards were attacked. The nephew and the guards died during the assault. The PS succumbed to her injuries in September while undergoing treatment in South Africa.

The PS was shot in the shoulder and on the legs after she was abducted on the Mpeketoni-Lamu road.

The latest attack happened metres away from a new GSU camp. It is among the many security camps established by the national government in all terror hotspots along the road to deter attacks.

In March, the government set up additional police posts and KDF camps in Milihoi, Nyongoro, Lango la Simba and Mambo Sasa, among other areas.

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