Source: Shabelle

Villagers in Tana River and Lamu on Sunday said security forces were bombarding camps in Ozi Forest that were used by raiders behind the spate of attacks in Lamu and Tana River counties.

Witnesses told the Nation that they heard loud explosions after military aircraft flew over the forest in Tana River county over the past few days.

The number of casualties could not be independently confirmed, but multiple sources, including some government administration and security officials, claimed that some of the attackers had been killed in the operation while others escaped with injuries.

There were also reports that more than a dozen gunmen affiliated to the Somali-based Al-Shabaab terrorists and local bandits, including ringleaders of the Lamu attacks, could have been captured.

However, Deputy Inspector General of Police Samuel Arachi, who has been leading the joint forces operation, denied that military aircraft had bombed camps in the forest.

“We have not done anything of that nature. We came here to make peace not to kill and we are happy that we have been able to ensure there is peace,” Mr Arachi told the Nation.

Military sources also denied the claims, saying the aeroplanes overflying the area were being used in the Somalia operation and had nothing to do with the operation against the Lamu killers.

Mr Arachi, who was speaking from Lamu, said security forces had arrested 66 people since the operation started, and most of the suspects have since been prosecuted.

On Sunday, however, witnesses claimed that planes had been overflying the expansive Ozi Forest in Tana Delta District from Thursday to Saturday and that they had heard explosions in the forest.

“We heard huge blasts accompanied by smoke immediately the three planes flew over the forest,” said a Kilelegwani resident, Mr Mohamed Guyo.

Residents of Ido, Kau, Kipini, Witu Town, Dideworide and Kiketa which are located within a radius of 15 kilometres of the operation, said they had heard the explosions.

Former Kipini East councillor Sheriff Abdulkadir said by phone that there were explosions in some areas.

“We have been hearing sounds of planes and blasts since Thursday afternoon in the direction of Ozi village but we are not sure what is going there,” he said.

One chief said: “We received communication that we should alert security agencies in case people with gun wounds are spotted.”

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