Several Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers aboard a Kenya Air Force Huey chopper have died in a crash within the terror-prone Boni Forest in Lamu County.
Confirming the incident on Tuesday, the Military Strategic Communications in charge Brigadier Zipporah Kioko said the crew and the other military personnel on board were part of an air surveillance for the ongoing multi-agency security, Operation Amani Boni (OAB).
The operation, which is being carried out in Lamu, Tana River, Garissa and Kilifi counties, is meant to flush out al-Shabaab militants believed to be hiding inside the dense Boni Forest.
It was launched by the national government in September 2015, just a year after the Mpeketoni terrorist attack that left over 90 people dead and property worth millions of shillings destroyed on the night of June 15, 2014.
“A Kenya Air Force Huey Helicopter crashed last night while on night patrol in Lamu County. The crew and other military personnel on board were part of an air surveillance for the ongoing Operation Amani Boni. The leadership and entire KDF fraternity condole with the families of the crew,” said Brigadier Kioko in a statement.
Asked about the reason behind the accident, Brigadier Kioko said a Board of Inquiry (BOI) had already been constituted and dispatched to the scene to establish the exact cause of the crash.
The Monday chopper crashed at around 7.30pm and bodies of the occupants were flown to Nairobi on Tuesday morning.
The military chopper crash comes just three days after KDF soldiers undertaking Operation Amani Boni in Lamu’s Boni Forest killed two al-Shabaab militants in Bodhei area within the expansive forest.
Tens of other terrorists escaped with multiple gunshot wounds during the night raid on two hideouts within Bodhei.
The team was acting on an intelligence tip-off and raided the hideout believed to be one of the terror group’s logistics camps, where militant IED teams were operating from.
Upon accessing the area, the Special Forces pounced upon the militants who were hiding in the bushes leading to a fierce and prolonged gunfight with the Special Forces.
Assorted weapons were captured, namely: AK 47 rifles, AK 47 magazines, Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers, warheads, and assorted AK 47 ammunition.
The soldiers had received intelligence reports that al-Shabaab militants had been sighted in the general area of Bodhei in Lamu County before conducting the ambush and killing the two.
Locals interviewed by Nation.Africa on Tuesday also condoled the personnel who died in the chopper crash.
Bakari Yusuf said KDF and the security team at large have done a great duty in restoring peace and stability in Lamu County and other counties bordering the Kenya-Somalia border.
“We need our soldiers to be safe and alive always. It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost some in the military chopper crash that occurred last night. We say pole (sorry) to the families affected. The soldiers are our heroes in Lamu. They have made great efforts to stabilise the security of this place. May Allah (God) protect them in their course of duty,” said Mr Yusuf.
The Boni Forest operation has for the last eight years undergone various transformations from Linda Boni, Boni Enclave campaign, Operation Fagia Msitu to now Operation Amani Boni (OAB) in efforts to stabilise Lamu and parts of Garissa, Tana River, and Kilifi counties, which border the expansive Boni forest towards the Kenya-Somalia border.
The operation is composed of KDF, National Police Service (NPS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and National Government Administration officers (NGAO).
KDF is, however, designated as the lead agency.