Residents of Koreni village in Mkunumbi Division, Lamu West are a worried lot after Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers taking part in the ongoing multi-agency Operation Linda Boni conducted an impromptu search for guns and terrorists suspected to be hiding there.
The operation was conducted at dawn on Sunday.
Koreni village is home to over 600 residents, mostly herders from the Somali community.
Villagers who talked to the Nation on Sunday said the raid by the KDF soldirs happened between 1.45am and 2.30am.
Mr Muhumed Kalmey, a former chief and the chairman of the Koreni Pastoralist Development Initiative, said the security agencies ambushed them in their homes, forcibly dragged them out of their houses and conducted searches.
“I heard a loud bang on the door of my house at around 1.45 am. I woke up and upon opening the door, seven armed KDF officers forced their way in. They ordered us to go out of the house.
“By that time they had already begun searching. Some of us were naked but they didn’t mind. They said they were searching for hidden riffles. It’s unfair,” said Mr Kalmey.
At some point, the soldiers are said to have broken into houses, especially of those who resisted opening their doors as directed.
Mr Hassan Ali said he was shocked after realising that the KDF had raided their village without notice and at that particular hour of the morning.
“My wife, children and I were ordered to get out of the house. The soldiers ordered as to show them our national identity cards which we did. They then forced their way into the house where they searched for minutes before moving to the next home. They didn’t explain anything about their operation,” said Mr Ali.
Following the incident, the villagers have accused the security agencies of targeting them in the war on terror in the area.
This is not the first time Koreni village is being raided by security agencies in the search for hidden guns and terrorists.
On August 2, 2017, police raided the village as they searched for Al-Shabaab militants and weapons.
In September 2017, residents of Koreni complained of harassment after the security agencies threatened to “finish” the entire village in case of any Al-Shabaab attack in Milihoi.
Milihoi, a renowned hotspot where suspected Al-Shabaab militants attack and ambush security and passenger vehicles, is located on the Lamu-Mpeketoni route and is roughly eight kilometres from Koreni village.
LIVING IN FEAR
Ms Fatuma Hassan said the raids by security officers are making them live in fear.
“It’s unfair for the security agencies to keep on targeting us on issues that we are not aware of. Why do they keep on raiding our village for rifles and terrorists which we don’t hide? We are no longer free and safe since 2015 when the Linda Boni operation started.
“Are we not Kenyans? The government should come clear on this. We are tired of being ambushed by our security agencies who are supposed to protect us and ensure we live comfortably,” said Ms Fatuma.
Mr Mahmud Salim said, “You can’t come at night without notice, drag us out of our houses and conduct searches by force and you expect us to be happy.
“They are saying they are looking for weapons. According to them, we are suspects. That’s unfair. All we ask is that they don’t victimise us even as they fight Al-Shabaab in Lamu since the terrorists are equally our enemies.”
The villagers called on the security agencies to ensure they build a close relationship with them so that they can have an easy time reporting insecurity incidences to them once they occur.
“We are now worried. Where are we going to run to once we are in trouble if the security agencies who are supposed to protect us are the ones treating us like the enemy? We are peace lovers,” said one of the villagers who requested to remain anonymous.
Contacted, Linda Boni Operation Director Joseph Kanyiri confirmed the incident but was quick to say that it was a normal routine check in an area of interest.
“This was a routine check on an area of interest. A variety of crude weapons were recovered. It may not be prudent to say much on operations of this nature. We urge wananchi to cooperate with security agencies during such operations. They mean well and shouldn’t be construed in any other way,” said Mr Kanyiri.