Gunmen kill at least 49 in Kenya attack

Gunmen kill at least 49 in Kenya attack

Gunmen kill at least 49 in Kenya attack

A member of the Kenyan security forces observes the remains of vehicles destroyed by militants, in the village of Kibaoni just outside the town of Mpeketoni, about 100 kilometers from the Somali border on the coast of Kenya. AP photo

At least 49 people were killed when suspected al-Shabaab militants from Somalia stormed into a Kenyan coastal town and launched a major assault on a police station, hotels and government offices, officials said June 16.

Around 50 heavily-armed gunmen drove into the town of Mpeketoni, near the coastal island and popular tourist resort of Lamu, late June 15.

Witnesses said they first attacked a police station, before starting to randomly shoot at civilians, some of whom had been watching the World Cup in local bars and hotels. District deputy commissioner Benson Maisori said several buildings in the town, which is around 100 kilometers from the border with Somalia, were burned down including hotels, restaurants, banks and government offices.

Al-Shabaab flag

“There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the al-Shabaab flag. They were shouting in Somali and shouting Allahu Akbar,” he said.

Kenyan troops crossed into southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the al-Shabaab, later joining the now 22,000-strong African Union force battling the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The al-Shabaab vowed revenge, carrying out a string of attacks on Kenyan soil, including last September’s assault on Nairobi’s Westgate mall in which at least 67 people were killed.

The town of Mpeketoni, a trading center on the main coastal road, lies on the mainland some 30 kilometers southwest of Lamu island, a popular tourist destination whose ancient architecture is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“All the dead are men. There are no women or children, and this fairly complicates matters. We may not tell immediately whether the attacks were done by al-Shabaab, the MRC (Mombasa Republican Council) or just mere criminals,” Leonard Omollo, Lamu County police commander, said.

The MRC is an illegal movement that wants the coastal region to secede. It has not recently been linked to attacks of this scale. Last month one of the al-Shabaab’s most senior commanders, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, released radio broadcasts urging fighters to strike Kenya. The U.S., U.K., France, Australia, and Canada have all recently upgraded their terror threat warnings for the country. U.S. Marines behind sandbag bunkers are now stationed on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
Hundreds of British tourists were also evacuated last month from beach resorts near Kenya’s port city of Mombasa following new warnings of terror attacks from Britain’s Foreign Office.

Britain this week released warnings to citizens in several East African nations, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, who all have troops in Somalia, speaking of the threat of attacks at public screenings of the World Cup.