By Staff Reporter
- Dozens killed after Islamists strike Kenya town close to tourist resort of Lamu
- Attackers flying flags of Somalia’s al-Shabaab carry out deadliest attack on Kenyan soil since Westgate mall, targeting hotels and businesses near resort island
- Gunmen flying the flag of Somalia’s al-Qaeda affiliate roared into a Kenyan coastal town and opened fire indiscriminately on pedestrians, shop-owners and people watching the World Cup, leaving at least 48 people dead.
- Two banks, government buildings and a dozen vehicles were set alight as the Islamist attackers worked their way through the town of Mpeketoni, close to Lamu island, until Kenyan forces repelled them hours later.
Vehicles destroyed in Mpeketoni attack (Photo: @CitizenTVNews)
It was the boldest raid inside Kenya blamed on al-Shabaab since the terror strike against the Westgate Shopping Centre in the capital, Nairobi, last September, when more than 70 people died.
Britain has advised tourists to avoid areas of Kenya’s coast south of where the attack took place, including Mombasa island. Mpeketoni does not fall inside that alert zone, but is rarely visited by Western tourists.
Three minibus taxis carrying al-Shabaab’s black flag and full of armed men in balaclavas arrived soon after dark on Sunday night, shooting dead people walking on the roads leading into Mpeketoni before continuing into town and opening fire.
Two workers’ hostels where people were watching Switzerland v Ecuador on bar-room televisions were amongst the first targets. Both buildings were set on fire and completely destroyed.
People gather around the wreckage of a car in Mpeketoni (AFP/GETTY)
Julius Kimotho, an activist with a church-based human rights organisation who lives in Mpeketoni, said he could hear gunfire through the night.
“My house less than a mile from the town centre, and I could see the houses burning and hear the gunfire, it went on until something like 3am,” he said. “I could hear people wailing, crying for someone to save them. It was very bad.”
Richard Amana, a local politician, said that business properties appeared to have been targeted for destruction.
Benson Maisori, the area’s deputy commissioner, said: “We have been told witnesses heard the attackers shouting Allahu akbar and about jihad as they moved through the town. This is al-Shabaab’s work”.
A destroyed house smoulders in Mpeketoni (AFP/GETTY)
However, the Islamist group’s radio station in neighbouring Somalia carried denials that al-Shabaab had carried out the attack, according to sources in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Mpeketoni is a fast-growing town that serves as a base for construction crews and commercial developers working on a new sea-port north of Lamu island, and on associated infrastructure.
There has been tension between unemployed local youths and investors from upcountry Kenya, who have been accused of bringing people from their own areas to fill jobs in the town.
However, the attack was of such a scale that it was unlikely disputes over land, contracts or workers’ grievances could have provoked it, officials in Mpeketoni and Nairobi said.