East African Standard on Monday, June 28, 2004
Article ID: D148522
Kenya Navy personnel and American Marines conducting a joint training operation in Lamu have been stopping and searching cargo and passenger boats entering or leaving the island.
In the past week, they have stopped and searched several boats as they crossed the channel between Lamu island and Mokowe Jetty and between Lamu and Pate Island.
On Thursday afternoon a powered US navy rubber boat, carrying navy officers and marines intercepted Mv Alitsaq between Faza and Manda island, boarded and did thorough search of passengers luggage.
However, the vessel’s captain, Adlan Mulana, said only seven navy personnel boarded his boat while a US marine in charge of the rubber boat did not interfere. On Wednesday the same team had stopped a boat belonging to the Lamu Palace Hotel at Matondoni and the navy men asked the crew to show their identification papers before searching the luxury boat.
The searches started early in the week after hundreds of foreign Muslim leaders started pouring into Siyu Village for a one week prayer festival known as Ijiktmai which ended yesterday. Pate island is home to runaway terrorism suspect Faizul Mohammed. Lamu DC Kutswa Olaka said he was not aware of a heightened security operation involving the marines.
Department of Defence spokesman Mr Bogita Ongeri said on the telephone that the checks were normal security surveillance and were not meant to intimidate anyone.
A spokesman at the American Embassy in Nairobi said marines only offered training and facilities like the power boat.