NAIROBI – In Lamu county, the coastal region of Kenya, some civilians are moving out of their homes into small towns for safety. The development comes a day after the al-Shabab militant group stormed a military base that hosts U.S. and Kenyan counter-terrorism forces, killing three U.S. personnel.
Witnesses say people are moving out of villages near the Manda Bay airfield, for fear of further attacks or getting caught in clashes between security forces and al-Shabab fighters hiding in the nearby Boni forest.
Anab Haji is a member of the county assembly of Lamu. Her constituency falls under the area that came under attack.
“People are in fear, and people have been moving out of the village to the nearby town, that’s Hindi and Mokowe. We have villages like Mkondoni. We have Sinambio, Kausara. So people are in fear, that’s why they are going to town. But the security is very tight. Our military are doing a good job,” she said.
On Sunday, al-Shabab militants stormed the base, damaging several aircraft and vehicles before they were driven out by the American and Kenyan forces.
The U.S. Africa Command in a statement said the three men killed were an American serviceman and two contractors. Two more contractors were wounded, and they were in a stable condition.
One man who lived close to the camp moved to Hindi town which is about five kilometers from the base for safety.
“If people can attack such a military camp that for a powerful country, what about ordinary people like us who just walk with nothing,” he said. “There are security officers present, but these people know officers are there, and they are still coming, so you can’t know. You don’t want to take risk, want to be caught cannot between the officers and militiamen.”
Since the attack Sunday morning, Kenya has beefed up security in and around Lamu county, which borders Somalia.
Security analyst Abdullahi Halakhe told VOA that al-Shabab is trying to exploit political developments in the Horn of Africa, including the upcoming Somali election.
“There is no good relationship between Mogadishu and Nairobi, and now al-Shabab is taking advantage of all of that,” he said. “The election is this year, Kenya and Somalia are not in a good relationship, AMISOM winding down if everything goes as plan this year. All these things are brought together, al-Shabab is taking advantage of that, and we might be able to see some of these attacks probably increasing.”
Al-Shabab has carried out frequent terror attacks in Kenya since 2011, when Kenya sent soldiers to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.