Security has been stepped up on the Kenya-Somalia border as Kenyan troops prepare to seize control of Kismayu, the last remaining Al-Shabaab stronghold.
Police were on high alert to stop infiltration of the militants both via land and sea routes. Coast deputy provincial police officer Jacinta Kinyua said adequate measures had been taken to enhance security at the border.
She said more officers had been sent to monitor the borders and carry out patrols across the region. Community policing would also be used to catch any suspicious people, she said.
“I urge the public to report to us any suspicious people in their midst. We welcome their sentiments,” Ms Kinyua told the Nation in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
The Coast region has, just like many other parts of the country, witnessed a number of grenade attacks linked to Al-Shabaab militants believed to be avenging the Kenya Defence Forces incursion into Somalia.
Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and insurgents routinely sneak into Kenya to launch attacks. The insurgents are holding a district officer and a registration of persons official whom they abducted in a cross-border raid in Wajir County.
This has forced security agents to closely monitor the border, resulting in a number of arrests in the recent past. Kismayu port is the lifeline of the terrorist group because its port business brings in millions of dollars in revenue. (READ: Operation Kismayu)
A significant amount of goods, including sugar and charcoal, pass through the port and are taxed by the militants.
The recent fall of Afmadow to Kenyan forces and their Somali Transitional Federal Government allies opened the way for a move on Kismayu. Kenyan and Somali government troops are now reported to be less than 75 kilometres from the port town.
Also bracing for the impeding attack are African Union forces composed of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. The highly anticipated fall of the port city, the economic and political capital of southern Somalia, is expected to end Al-Shabaab’s influence in the region.
KDF has said Kismayu will fall before August. Many of Al-Shabaab’s foreign fighters are reported to have massed in Kismayu. Lamu East DC Pius Murugu said three people who were trying to sneak foreigners into the country through the Boni forest had been arrested recently.
He said nine people had been arrested since January as they tried to enter the country illegally. Three of them are facing charges and are currently held at the Lamu Police Station as hearing of their cases continues.
Kenya has been on a state of high alert since her forces crossed into Somalia on October 16, 2011 to fight Al-Shabaab, sparking reprisal attacks, mostly against civilian targets.
Last week, Al-Shabaab leaders were reported to be fleeing Kismayu, heading to Puntland and Yemen. A price of Sh2.9 billion has been put on the heads of the leaders of Al-Shabaab by the United States government.