Kenyan police on Thursday arrested 46 suspected members of the separatist group, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), in the coastal city of Mombasa.
Likoni divisional police commander Benjamin Rotich said security officers ambushed the group, suspected to be behind insecurity in the coastal region, when it was holding an illegal meeting at a popular beach.
Rotich said suspects who include elderly and youth were having an illegal meeting. “They did not have a permit to hold the meeting. We have kicked off investigations,” said Rotich.
The police have been accusing the MRC, an increasingly violent Islamic group of working in cahoots with Al-Shabaab terrorist group, to carry out the gruesome attacks in the coastal region.
MRC whose key agenda remains largely unclear beyond the call for the separation of Mombasa and the coastal region from the rest of Kenya is also charging that the coastal people’s rights to land and property ownership has been violated.
Rotich said they have launched search for more accomplices in the crime-prone Likoni area, noting that those arrested will be taken to court on Friday.
Documents show the suspects are from Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu counties and the motive behind the meeting in the coastal region remains unknown.
A security source who was part of the operation said dozens of MRC membership cards were seized from the suspects. Eric Wawlevu, Likoni deputy county commissioner, said that by the time of the arrest, the group members were taking illegal oaths at the beach.
The group’s grievances are mostly about marginalization and land rights which are shared by many on the coast. On 2010, the government declared the MRC, together with 32 other organizations, illegal on grounds that they were not properly registered and were bent on engaging in criminal activities.
Security agencies suspect the MRC could be receiving funding from Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab to carry out terror attacks in the region including the killing of more than 60 people in Lamu in 2014.