At 8pm, June 15, 2014, a group of 50 Al-Shabaab militants walked into the dusty town of Mpeketoni and killed 48 people. A few weeks later, the group descended on Hindi, and killed more people, all of whom were non-Muslim. Emboldened by the little resistance they had faced from Kenyan security officers during the attacks in Mpeketoni and Hindi, the militants moved to Pandanguo, a few days later. In Pandanguo, a predominantly Muslim village, the militants did not kill anyone. Rather, they preached about ‘militant jihad’ at the local mosque, and looted drugs, nets and mattresses from the local dispensary. As Kenyan politicians began trading accusations over the events in Lamu, the militants collected their loot at Mpeketoni, Hindi and Pandanguo, and set up a new camp inside the vast Boni forest.
Since, members of this new Al-Shabaab force, dubbed ‘Jeysh Ayman’, or ‘Jeshi la Imani’, believed to be about 300, have engaged the Kenyan military in a cat and mouse game, in the Operation Linda Boni Forest, a joint-military operation aided by US special forces. Along the Kenya-Somalia border, from Mandera to Lamu, and in particular, along the dusty Bargoni-Kiunga road that cuts through the Boni forest, Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs) have claimed many lives – of civilians and soldiers alike. The Aweer, a community of predominantly hunters and gatherers, and one of the oldest inhabitants of Boni forest, have been caught in the crossfire of the operation. When she was kidnapped along the Mokowe-Mpeketoni road – and later rescued by the KDF – Public Works Principal Secretary Mariam El-Maawy, was on her way to Witu town to see members of the Aweer community who have been displaced from their settlements by the operation, which now includes airstrikes.
Al-Shabaab’s latest offensive The story of ‘Jeysh Ayman’ began on night of June 20, 2013, at the ancient Somali coastal town of Barawe, which had become Al-Shabaab’s operational headquarters after the group escaped Kismayu, their wealthy capital since 2006. During that night, militants attached to Al-Shabaab’s feared secret-police, the Amniyaat, executed Ibrahim Al-Afghani, a member of Al-Shabaab’s executive council, the Shura, on orders issued by the then Al-Shabaab leader, the late Ahmed Abdi Godane. Others, Mukhtar Robow and Sheikh Dahir Aweys, managed to escape, and later defected from Al-Shabaab. While Godane had accused his colleagues of attempting to split Al-Shabaab and form rival organisations, his critics, such as Al-Afghani, Robow and Aweys, had accused him of dictatorial tendencies, and of unnecessarily shedding civilian blood.
Source: Standard Digital