Intelligence officers knew about the impending attacks on Mpeketoni and Maporomoko, it became clear on Tuesday.
The National Intelligence Services is said to have warned of the imminent attacks three days before they happened, the Nation has learnt.
However, the warning was not acted on by local security chiefs and the police, according to security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. They ignored the intelligence report despite a proper briefing by the NIS who had received a tip-off,” a source said.
“Three days before the raid, NIS officers relayed information to their bosses in Nairobi about a looming high-scale attack by Al-Shabaab. They advised NIS headquarters to send alerts across the county and mobilise adequate personnel,” the source said.
The message was also reportedly passed on to the Lamu county security and intelligence committee.
It also emerged that the police were aware of the imminent attack.
A Mpeketoni farmer told journalists that there was an increased police presence on the eve of the attack, but he was surprised that when the attackers struck, none of the officers showed up or responded to calls for help until about 3am after the damage was done.
Travellers to Lamu said they were stopped at a roadblock at Witu trading centre at about 7pm on Sunday and warned not to proceed because “things will be bad ahead”.
A businessman driving to Lamu, Mr Ahmed Musa, told the Nation that he was advised at Witu to cut short his journey. “A police officer told me that if I had to proceed beyond there, I must be very careful,” Mr Musa said.
He decided to take his chances and proceeded, but about three kilometres from Kibaoni, he found a bus parked on the roadside.
“I asked the driver what was happening and he told me he had been warned from Mpeketoni not to proceed to Lamu,” he said.
The bus driver and Mr Musa then drove on to Kibaoni and parked their vehicles at Kibaoni Filling Station.
“Immediately, we heard gunshots from afar but they quickly grew louder. Before we realised what was happening, a group of men arrived, shooting indiscriminately,” he said.
Suddenly, he said, the shopping centre was swarming with attackers who spoke in Somali and “broken” Swahili.
“It was dark but we could see them. People fled into the nearby maize shambas and bushes,” he said.
Mr Musa said the attackers targeted only men. He saw at least three boda boda riders being shot dead after they were ordered to alight from their motorbikes.
“Their female passengers were left to go,” he said.
Four journalists heading to Lamu, NTV’s Nehemiah Okwembah, KBC’s Dickson Wekesa, The Star’s Alphonce Gari and K24’s Sharif David, took cover in a nearby goods shop.
“We heard them tell the watchman that they were Al-Shabaab and that the attack was a mere warning to the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania,” Mr Okwembah said.
“When daylight broke, the men who had taken over Kibaoni went to a nearby mosque and prayed. After the prayers, they came out and fired indiscriminately and set some houses on fire,” Mr Musa said.
By daybreak, no police officer had arrived at the scene.
Some villagers, however, timidly came out of their houses and there was wailing and confusion all over.