Kenya’s military this week launched air strikes on the forest hideout of Somali Islamists blamed for deadly attacks on civilians and security personnel.
Heavily-armed attackers have in the past two weeks beheaded nine civilian men and killed three police officers in Lamu district, which borders Somalia. Al Shabaab Islamists claimed responsibility for the police killings.
Kenyan police say militants use Boni forest as a base for attacks in the region.
“A serious operation has started in Boni forest. We are flushing them out of the forest,” Nelson Marwa, Coast region co-ordinator, told journalists in Mombasa.
“We will do all it takes to secure the forest and are urging neighbouring communities to stay away to avoid any injuries.”
An armed group, many of whom appeared to be ethnic Somalis, attacked two villages on Friday, going from house to house and seizing non-Muslim men, whom they later beheaded.
The government on Saturday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew for three months in Lamu and two other neighbouring counties.
Al Shabaab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s western-backed government and establish its own rule, based on the group’s strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
The Islamists frequently launch attacks on Kenyan soil which they say are intended to force the country to withdraw its troops from Somalia.
Kenyan troops form part of the African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeeping force defending Somalia’s central government against al Shabaab.