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Kenya security kill four suspected al Shabaab fighters in Lamu - official

By Joseph Akwiri

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan military personnel have killed four suspected al Shabaab fighters after a fierce shootout in a forest on the north coast, a government official said on Tuesday.

Monday's shooting between the SECURITY (SECURITY.C)(SECURITY.8)forces and the Somali Islamist militia occurred in Kenya's Boni forest in Lamu county, near the border with Somalia.

A joint force of military and police have been combing Boni forest since September to flush out militants, who are believed to be using the area as a hideout to plan and launch attacks.

On Sunday, suspected militants killed three men in the Pandanguao area of Lamu, the same location where they had killed at least 100 people in a series of attacks in June and July 2014.

Nelson Marwa, the coast regional coordinator, said the four suspects were part of a bigger group security forces were tailing.

"It is a major breakthrough. Our forces recovered a police vehicle that been stolen by the terrorists earlier," Marwa told Reuters by phone.

He said they also recovered four AK 47 rifles, three improvised explosive devices, three pistols and communication gadgets from the slain suspects.

"We will turn every stone in that forest until we get rid of all dangerous elements, and we shall be ruthless," said Marwa.

Kenya is still recovering from a major al Shabaab attack on its military base in Somalia last month, which left several soldiers dead. Officials have not released the number of the dead, but the militants claimed they killed over 100 soldiers.

Al Shabaab has said in the past its frequent attacks in Kenya are in retaliation for Kenya sending its troops into Somalia in 2011. They are now part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

The al Qaeda-linked group also seeks to overthrow the Western-backed Somali government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law.

(Editing by George Obulutsa and Katharine Houreld)

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