Kenyan police on Thursday announced the arrest of at least 33 Al-Shabaab militants between December-March in the ongoing operation Linda Boni in the coastal town of Lamu.
Deputy County Commissioner Michael Kioni said 20 militants were arrested along the Lamu-Malindi route while 13 were arrested between Garrisa-Lamu road by Kenya security agents.
Kioni said the suspects were enroute from Somalia to carry out attacks targeting Lamu and parts of northeastern region when they were intercepted by security agents working on intelligence reports.
“We managed to arrest the suspects and thwarted their plans to stage attacks in the country. Majority were Somali nationals and few Kenyans from various parts of the country,” Kioni said in Lamu.
Last year, 36 suspected Al-Shabaab militants were arrested in Operation Boni that was launched in September 2015. The operation targeted the Jeysh Ayman, a 300-member Al-Shabaab cell that operated in the forest.
The vast Boni forest area, along the Kenya Somalia border extends into Somalia to become Lacta Belt that was infiltrated by Al-Shabaab operatives.
Head of security operations in the Boni Forest, James ole Serian said the suspects were handed to agencies including the anti-terrorism police unit (ATPU) for profiling and possible prosecution.
Serian said the operation has been successful but that the terror group based in Somalia remains a threat.
It emerged in July 2015 that Al-Shabaab militants had set up permanent base in the vast forest and were living there with their families.
The militants and their wives and children hunt game for food and use water from several rivers in the forest. Serian said Lamu will soon be declared a terrorist-free zone following the success of Operation Linda Boni.
Kenya Defence Force Spokesman Colonel Joseph Owuoth said the militants have changed tactic and using improvised explosive devices (IED) to carry out attacks in parts of North Eastern.
On Tuesday four people were killed when a civilian vehicle ran over a bomb in Dadaab’s Garissa County, northeastern Kenya.
Two men, a woman and a child died on the spot after the vehicle was ripped apart at Aligabay, 70 km from Liboi town. Two police officers were also injured in IED attack same area.
Security agents suspect the renewed attacks are a reaction to the killing of Al-Shabaab leaders and may spread to other regions ahead of the start of the Ramadhan period this month.