Two more people were killed in fresh attacks in Lamu on Sunday evening, raising the death toll to 13.
The raiders also torched several houses in Juhudi/Marafa village in Mpeketoni Division, Lamu West sub-county, on Sunday evening.
A group of armed men are said to have raided the village at around 5.30pm and started shooting in the air.
They then descended on two middle-aged men, shot and killed them before looting food items from some houses and torching them.
Household items, including television sets and solar panels and lights were also destroyed by the attackers before they fled into the nearby forest.
Security agencies responded to the attack, sparking and exchange of gunfire that lasted for several hours, but no one was arrested or killed.
A security source, who talked to the Nation on Monday on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said they were deployed to the Ukumbi area of Juhudi/Marafa where the armed bandits were hiding.
“We arrived here on Sunday at 6pm after receiving distress calls from locals. The attackers also tried to fight us. There were gunshots that lasted hours. This morning, the criminals, who seem to be within, also tried to engage us but we were very alert,” the officer said.
A local administrator confirmed that two people aged between 50 and 55 years had been killed in Juhudi/Marafa and that their bodies were yet to be removed from the scene.
Avoid becoming the next targets
The administrator said that the two killings has struck fear among residents, with tens of families reported to have fled Juhudi, Marafa, Ukumbi and Salama villages and spent the night in Kibaoni and Majembeni towns to avoid becoming the next targets.
Juhudi Primary School had no pupils on Monday as parents were reported to have fled with their children and taken refuge in Kibaoni.
“I have hosted eight families from Juhudi in my home. They arrived at my homestead at around 7pm on Sunday, claiming their area is unsafe,” said an administrator, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation by his bosses.
“The gunshots that filled the air throughout the night also scared away many people and forced them to leave their homes. Something needs to be done urgently.”
On Monday morning, police officers stopped a planned demonstration by locals in Kibaoni. They had begun burning tyres on the road in an effort to push the government to intervene and restore peace and security in their villages.
Transport activities in Kibaoni and Majembeni towns were interrupted for almost an hour as the angry protesters erected stone barricades before police arrived and dispersed them.
“We can’t continue to witness our friends being killed and houses torched just like that. The government needs to come down to our villages and stop these killings of innocent citizens,” said Simon Mwangi, who was among the protesters.
“Our two elders have already been killed. The bandits are also looting items and destroying our TV sets and solar systems. We will protest until our cries are heard out there.”
Military and police
Contacted for comment on the latest killings, Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata confirmed that two more people had been killed in Juhudi, adding that the attackers were being pursued by security agencies.
“Indeed, two people were killed in Juhudi. They were escaping from the attackers but unfortunately, two lost their lives. But I want to assure locals of their safety,” he said.
He added: “We have placed the military and police in all those places that the attackers would find a chance to attack. Right now, the ground is fully covered. There's nothing to worry about."
Speaking in Mombasa on Monday morning shortly after meeting Lamu elected leaders led by Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha, Mr Elungata said they had agreed on several measures to beef up security.
The two latest killings come hours after the regional security team held a meeting in Lamu County on Sunday.
The meeting was held at Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia’s offices at Mokowe and brought together top county security bosses, Lamu leaders, chiefs and Nyumba Kumi officials from various parts of Lamu West and Lamu Central.
At the meeting, chiefs and assistant chiefs were put on notice for failing to share information.
Seven civilians and four General Service Unit (GSU) officers had been killed.
Mr Elungata and County police Commander Musyoka Manase met with local administrators and instructed them to work with village elders to gather information that will help police arrest the criminals.
Mr Elungata said though land is an emotive issue that had led to violence in the area, locals were harbouring suspected Al-Shabaab militants, who are being used to disrupt peace.
"We have been having a problem getting information from members of the public. That is why we have instructed chiefs and their assistants to monitor the situation and give information on any suspected Al-Shabaab sympathisers,” he said.
The latest killings bring the number of people killed in Lamu in one week to 13.
On January 2, six people were killed and several houses torched by armed gangsters in Widho village in Mkunumbi ward, Lamu West sub-county.
The following day, a 62-year-old man was killed and set ablaze in his house in Bobo-Sunkia village in Hindi ward, Lamu West.
On January 7, four officers from the General Service Unit (GSU) were killed in a suspected Al-Shabaab attack. They were ambushed with a rocket-propelled grenade and guns at Nure Corner, near Milihoi, on the Lamu-Witu-Garsen road.
The officers’ vehicle was also burnt in the 8.30am attack.
A week ago, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in parts of Lamu listed as disturbed areas.
They include parts of Mpeketoni, Witu, Hindi, Mkunumbi, Hongwe, and surrounding areas, all in Lamu West.