At least 34 have been left dead following an attack by Somali militants wielding automatic weapons on a small Kenyan coastal town, assaulting the police station, setting two hotels on fire, attacked a bank and spraying bullets into the street.
Kenya’s top police commander, David Kimaiyo, said the assault came today as town residents were watching World Cup matches on TV and Al-Shabab, Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked terror group, have been blamed for it.
The attack which occurred in the town of Mpeketoni, which is about 20km southwest of the tourist center of Lamu, it is said that any tourism in Mpeketoni is mostly local, with few foreigners visiting the region. The town is about 100km from the Somali border.
The Red Cross, which said it had personnel on the ground, put the death toll at 34. Kimaiyo had earlier said it was 27 but that it could rise.
The Interior Ministry said two minivans entered the town and militants disembarked and began shooting. Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Center said military surveillance planes were launched shortly afterward.
The nearby town of Lamu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the country’s oldest continually inhabited town. The region saw a spate of kidnappings of foreign tourists in 2011 that Kenya said was part of its motivation for attacking Somalia. Since those attacks and subsequent terror warnings tourism has dropped off sharply around Lamu.
Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out terror attacks to avenge the Kenyan military presence in Somali. At least 67 people were killed in September when four al-Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Kenya sent it troops to Somalia in October 2011.