What you need to know:
- Pandanguo and Jima residents in Lamu County have borne the brunt of ruthless gunmen, who have been linked to recent killings of at least 87 people in Lamu County.
- An eyewitness said the gunmen interrupted the prayer session before one of them took to the podium to deliver a 30-minute Jihadist sermon mainly in Somali and Arabic
Raiders who hit Pandanguo and Jima villages in Lamu on Saturday night stormed a mosque and even had time to preach to Muslims who had gone there for prayers.
The attackers, who witnesses said introduced themselves as members of Al-Shabaab, raided the two villages twice, forcing villagers to flee in their hundreds. After the raid, they harvested maize at a nearby farm as the owner watched before storming into a mosque at Pandanguo where they delivered a Jihadist sermon.
They had found the worshippers deep in Taraweeh prayer performed by Muslims in the month of Ramadhan. Pandanguo and Jima residents in Lamu County have borne the brunt of ruthless gunmen, who have been linked to recent killings of at least 87 people in Lamu County.
According to locals, about 50 heavily armed gunmen entered the mosque and found six Kenya Police Reservists among the worshippers and warned them not to pick up their rifles which they had placed on prayer mats.
Mr Fumo Abdallah, who was among the six police reservists disarmed by the gunmen, told Nation the attackers threatened to kill them if they refused to surrender the guns issued to them by the government.
“They told us that we are in possession of illegal weapons and we should surrender them if we wanted to live,” said Mr Abdallah.
The residents are predominantly from the semi-nomadic Awer community, popularly known as Boni. They depend on wild fruits and honey, and hunt small wild animals like dik dik for meat.
Nation reporters arrived in the two far-flung villages after passing through a forest with diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna classified by conservationists as endangered.
The ecosystem provides suitable hideouts for the raiders, who first attacked last Friday and disarmed six police reservists and returned on Saturday to harvest green maize from a one and a half acre farm on the outskirts of Jima village.
Speaking to Nation at Pandanguo on Monday, Mr Abdalla said the gunmen interrupted the prayer session led by Imam Adan Vaye before one of them took to the podium to deliver a 30-minute Jihadist sermon mainly in Somali and Arabic, while another translated it into Kiswahili before the frightened worshippers.
“The main speaker who delivered the sermon was a young bearded man, with his Kiswahili translator by his side.
“He asked us to support them to wage Jihad. We reluctantly responded In-sh-Allah (God willing),” he said.
Mr Sharuti Ali, another reservist, said the gunmen who entered the mosque with their shoes on, first ordered him and five colleagues to stand before the worshippers and declared them infidels (non-believers) for working with the Kenya government to send troops to Somalia.
“We were paraded before the rest of the worshippers and declared kafirs (non-believers). They then took us out of the mosque and asked us to choose between our lives and retaining the rifles. We were taken back to the mosque after we pleaded with them to spare our lives,” said Mr Ali.
In the mosque, he said the gunmen continued with the Jihad sermon, saying they were Al-Shabaab members on a mission “to fight injustice and persecution of Muslims in Kenya.”
“We were shaken by their sermon and they warned us against working with the government. We responded In-Sh-Allah, because we couldn’t say anything to the contrary,” he said.
Mr Said Jarajara Tototo said he was perplexed by the gunmen’s behaviour.
“We never dared to question them because everyone feared for his life. They were armed with heavy weapons. Each one had two rifles, small bags on their backs and many other types of equipment we have never seen before,” he said.
On Saturday morning, a Kenya Defence Force team in armoured personnel carriers went to Jima with more than 100 soldiers.
They went into the forest to pursue the attackers.