Several members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) lost their lives in a helicopter crash during a security operation in Lamu County. The incident occurred in the Boni Forest, known for its association with terror activities, on the evening of September 18, 2023.
Brigadier Zipporah Kioko, in charge of Military Strategic Communications, confirmed the tragedy on Tuesday. The soldiers on board, including the crew, were part of an air surveillance mission supporting the multi-agency security operation called Operation Amani Boni (OAB).
The ongoing OAB operation, spanning Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, and Kilifi counties, aims to root out al-Shabaab militants suspected of hiding within the dense Boni Forest. It was launched by the national government in September 2015, following the Mpeketoni terrorist attack in June 2014.
Brigadier Kioko expressed condolences on behalf of the KDF, stating, “A Kenya Air Force Huey Helicopter crashed last night while on night patrol in Lamu County. The crew and other military personnel on board were part of an air surveillance for the ongoing Operation Amani Boni. The leadership and entire KDF fraternity condole with the families of the crew.”
Regarding the cause of the crash, Brigadier Kioko mentioned that a Board of Inquiry (BOI) had been established and dispatched to the scene to determine the exact circumstances.
The accident occurred at approximately 7:30 PM on Monday, and the remains of the occupants were transported to Nairobi on Tuesday morning.
The mission was based on intelligence that led to the discovery of what was believed to be a logistics camp for the terror group. A confrontation with al-Shabaab militants resulted in a fierce and extended gunfight, yielding various captured weapons, including AK-47 rifles, magazines, RPG launchers, warheads, and ammunition.
Local residents also expressed their condolences for those who lost their lives in the helicopter crash. Bakari Yusuf praised the efforts of the KDF and security teams in restoring peace and stability in Lamu County and its neighboring regions. He stated, “We need our soldiers to be safe and alive always. It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost some in the military chopper crash that occurred last night. We say pole (sorry) to the families affected. The soldiers are our heroes in Lamu. They have made great efforts to stabilize the security of this place. May Allah (God) protect them in their course of duty.”
This tragic helicopter incident follows closely on the heels of a successful operation by KDF soldiers in the Boni Forest, where they eliminated two al-Shabaab militants in the Bodhei area.
For the past eight years, the Boni Forest operation has undergone several phases, including Linda Boni, Boni Enclave campaign, Operation Fagia Msitu, and the current Operation Amani Boni (OAB). These efforts aim to bring stability to Lamu and parts of Garissa, Tana River, and Kilifi counties, all of which border the expansive Boni Forest near the Kenya-Somalia border.
The operation involves multiple agencies, including the KDF, National Police Service (NPS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and National Government Administration officers (NGAO), with the KDF designated as the lead agency.