Lamu, Kenya — The Somalia based al-Qaeda-linked terror group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) continued its weeks long campaign of violence against the civilians and security forces in the southeastern region of Lamu County, Kenya this weekend. Its recent attack targeted specifically non-Muslim civilians in Jima village just outside of the coastal city of Lamu.
Reports coming from Kenyan Defense Force officials gleaned from the locals in the area that escaped the carnage say that about 15 armed al-Shabaab fighters attacked the village of Jima in the early morning hours of Saturday. The fighters then began targeting men who were non-Muslim, restrained them, then hacked their heads from their bodies. The jihadists beheaded a total of nine men in the same gruesome way.
Beheadings by al-Shabaab in Kenya are extremely rare which could be indicative of al-Shabaab tactics and groups of fighters being shifted from al-Shabaab controlled regions in the Lower Shabelle of Somalia where beheadings are more commonplace.
Al-Shabaab seemed to also have re-focused their assaults into Kenya in recent months with a massive increase of terror attacks against local security and police in the Lamu and Mandera counties of Kenya that border Somalia. The beheadings in Jima came days after another attack on local security officials in the Pandaguo region in Lamu County. Where a large group of al-Shabaab militants attacked a police station overrunning the local police, killing two officers, stealing a vehicle then setting the station on fire as well as blowing up a cellular tele-communications tower owned by Safaricom. The attack then turned into a ‘rolling gun-battle’ that lasted several hours as local police, possibly from the specialized Kenyan Police Rapid Deployment Unit which has a camp near Pandaguo responded to the attack and pinned the militants down.
Regional Kenyan Defense Forces responded to the police call for re-enforcements with ground troops supported by military helicopters which pushed the al-Shabaab guerrilla force back into the Boni National Forest Reserve where it is suspected that the Kenyan element of al-Shabaab has made their strong-hold.
SOFREP was able to speak with security analyst and former US Marine Andrew Franklin who resides in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in regards to the possible reasons why al-Shabaab has increased its bloody efforts in the northern regions of Kenya. Franklin had this to say, “Al Shabaab attacks on police posts, security force patrols, local government officials and civilians [have] picked up across all four of the Front Line Counties (eg Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu) adjacent to Somalia. Since the beginning of May the frequency of attacks increased from one or two every three weeks across the region to an attack every week mainly occurring in Mandera and Lamu Counties.”
However, Franklin was clear that the majority of these al-Shabaab attacks on local forces were mainly improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. And according to Franklin, it seems like al-Shabaab may have taken lessons learned from insurgent IED attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan saying; “[R]eports reveal that these are Al Shabaab ambushes triggered by command detonated explosives; Al Shabaab militants also stay concealed until a vehicle detonates a standard anti-tank mine after which survivors are shot to death.”
When asked whether the increase of al-Shabaab in the northern providences of Kenya have anything to do with its potential defeat within Somalia, Franklin simply replied, “Al-Shabaab has not been defeated inside Somalia.” Franklin went on to say that al-Shabaab’s increased violence in Kenya is the terror group’s plan to disrupt the Kenyan presidential elections scheduled for early August.
Feature image courtesy of al-Katai’b Media propaganda wing of al-Shabaab