Kenyan authorities Thursday confirmed a military operation to flush out suspected members of a tag-tag militia group – the Sabaot Land Defence Forces – was underway in the country’s west, targeting “wanted criminals” for prosecution.
“The government is undertaking a security operation on Mt. Elgon to arrest criminals who have been terrorising citizens (wanainchi) in the area,” Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told a news conference Thursday.
The operation kicked off on its second round Thursday, with the combined units of the military and the para-military police units undertaking a door-to-door operation that has been classified by the local media as “comprising excessive use of force.”
Mutua said the fleeing members of the Saboat Land Defence Forces would be dealt with in the manner the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) dealt with the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA).
“The criminals are known and are wanted for prosecution, for murder and other crimes. The main aim of the operation is to track these armed criminals, who are hiding in various parts of Mount Elgon, so they can be brought to justice,” Mutua said in a statement.
A combined force of the Kenya police, Administration police, the para-military General Service Unit (GSU) and with the logistical support of the Kenya Army is undertaking the operation, the Kenyan official said.
Local television station, the Kenyan Television Network (KTN), beamed images of army fighter jets, undertaking aerial bombardments, which it said, targeted “adult male” residents of Mount Kenya region, where hundreds of people have been killed.
David Kimutai, a resident of Mount Elgon region, said he was battered several times on the head before he ended up in hospital.
“They were beating me on the head, that was how I ended up in the hospital,” he said.
The military has been strict and has so far barred all journalists from accessin g the region where the operation is taking place.
Aid agencies have also accused the army of blockade, with KTN deriding the milit ary of lacking professionalism.
“These are the forces who have been trusted in carrying out peace-keeping operations under the UN, but they have been tested for the first time on Kenyan soil and the result is a total lack of professionalism,” a KTN anchor said.
The military operation has netted 187 suspected members of the Saboat Land Defence Forces.
“So far, significant arrests have been made, which included several of the wanted criminals.
“Some of the criminals who have tried to flee across the border have been stopped by our security forces and those apprehended so far are helping the police with investigations,” Mutua said. Panapress.