Police said Somalia's Al Shabaab Islamist group was most likely to
blame for Sunday night's assault on the town of Mpeketoni, which
lies on the Indian Ocean coastline that runs north from Kenya's main
port of Mombasa to the Somali border.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault, the
latest in a spate of gun and bomb attacks in recent months that have
hurt Kenya's struggling tourist industry.
Kenya had said it would be on alert during the World Cup to ensure
public showings of matches were kept safe.
"The attackers were so many and were all armed with guns. They
entered the video hall where we were watching a World Cup match and
shot indiscriminately at us," Meshack Kimani told Reuters by
telephone. "They targeted only men but I was lucky. I escaped by
hiding behind the door."
Sunday's assault is the worst since last September when Al Shabaab
gunmen attacked Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, leaving 67 people
After Westgate, Al Shabaab warned of more attacks, saying they were
determined to drive Kenyan troops out of Somalia. Kenya, whose
soldiers are deployed as part of an African peacekeeping force
battling militants, says it won't pull out.
The gunmen raced into Mpeketoni in two minibuses, the kind used as
public taxis in Kenya, and hit two hotels, a bank and a police
station with guns and at least one explosive device. Witnesses said
there were about 30 gunmen involved.
"More bodies have been recovered and right now we are talking about
48 dead persons," Leonard Omollo, Lamu County police commander, told
Reuters on telephone. "All the dead are men. There are no women or
Those killed include a policeman who worked as a driver for a police
chief in the town, said David Kimaiyo, the inspector general of
Kenya's police. Many Mpeketoni residents fled from the attack into
nearby forests, he said.
Police said no arrests had yet been made and said an investigation
was underway to determine whether militants or a criminal gang had
carried out the attack.
"Right now it is still premature to say who is behind the attack
until investigations are done, but the initial suspicion is Al
Shabaab," Mwenda Njoka, spokesman of Kenya's internal security
ministry, told a Kenyan television channel.
[to top of second column]
Al Shabaab bombed crowds watching World Cup soccer matches on
television in the Ugandan capital Kampala in 2010, killing 77
people. Uganda also has troops in Somalia. There were no immediate
reports of foreign visitors being hurt in Sunday's attack. Mpeketoni
is not a major holiday destination, but the assault could further
damage the tourist industry as it lies just 30 km (20 miles) from
Lamu, a historic Arab trading port that is a popular attraction.
The Kenya Red Cross said at least two of the casualties had been
evacuated to a hospital in Lamu. Kenyan hotels say bookings have
dropped sharply because of recent attacks and in the wake of
warnings by Western nations about travel to Kenya. Some hotels on
the coast say they face closure, while some hoteliers in land who
offer safari trips say reservations are down by 30 percent or more.
A Reuters television reporter in Mpeketoni saw at least six bodies
strewn on roads in the town. Ten burnt-out vehicles were also seen
in the area and a Kenyan bank branch was gutted in the attack, the
The Interior Ministry said it had sent up surveillance aircraft to
scan the area. A Reuters witness saw two military helicopters
patrolling over the town on Monday morning.
(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.