Dozens Massacred In Kenyan Attack

_75553690_75553363At least 48 people have  died after unidentified gunmen attacked hotels and a police station in a Kenyan coastal town, officials say.

Witnesses in Mpeketoni said gun battles lasted for several hours and reported seeing buildings set on fire.

The town is on the mainland near Lamu island, a well-known tourist resort.

Kenya has suffered numerous militant attacks since 2011 when its forces entered neighbouring Somalia to combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group.

This is the most deadly attack in Kenya since at least 67 people were killed during a siege by al-Shabab fighters at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre last September.

Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the attackers were “likely to be al-Shabab”, but the group has not yet commented.

Other unconfirmed reports said the raid was linked to a land dispute between rival communities in the remote area.

The attack started at 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT) on Sunday as locals were watching a football World Cup match on television.

Local residents told the BBC the gunmen hijacked a van and used it to attack various locations across Mpeketoni, which tourists travelling by road pass through before crossing to Lamu.

All those killed are believed to be locals. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) says no foreigners were in the town at the time of the attack.

Witnesses said gunmen, who had their faces covered, threw explosives into the local police station before entering and stealing weapons.

Kenya has been on high alert recently following warnings that al-Shabab was planning more attacks.

The US and UK have issued advisories to their nationals to keep away from parts of the Kenyan coast.

Sunday’s attack comes days after the UK government closed its consulate in the port city of Mombasa, citing heightened security threats.

District deputy commissioner Benson Maisori said several buildings in Mpeketoni had been burned down, including hotels, restaurants, banks and government offices, AFP news agency reports.

“There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the Shabab flag. They were shouting in Somali and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is Great],” he said.

However, Lamu County police commander Leonard Omollo told Reuters news agency that it was still unclear who carried out the attack.

The gunmen singled out men, sparing the lives of women and children, he said.

Local resident John Wawe-ru, 28, said two of his brothers had been killed.

“The attackers came in around 9pm. I heard them shouting in Somali as they fired around. I lost two of my brothers, and I escaped. I ran and locked up myself in a house,” he told AFP.

Major Chirchir said surveillance aircraft had been dispatched to the region to help track down the attackers.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has summoned Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku and police chief David Kimaiyo to discuss the security situation, the BBC’s Caroline Karobia reports from Nairobi.

Questions are being asked about how gunmen could raid a town for about five hours without an adequate response from the security forces, she says. — BBC   




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