At Least 50 Killed in Latest Attack in KenyaJune 17, 2014 in Kenya, Somalia
In what appears to be a clear sign that al-Shabaab’s recent statement of moving the war to Kenya is now becoming a reality, at least fifty people were killed on Sunday after unidentified gunmen attacked hotels and a police station in a Kenyan coastal town. Sunday’s attack is the deadliest incident to occur in Kenya since last year’s Westgate shopping centre siege.
Late Sunday, around 50-heavily armed gunmen attacked a busy coastal town, opening fire from two minibuses. Witnesses in the town of Mpeketoni, which is located on the mainland near Lamu island, a well-known tourist resort, reported Monday that gun battles, which began around 8:00 PM (1700 GMT), lasted for several hours on Sunday, while several buildings were set on fire. Witnesses have reported that a police station, a bank and two hotels were attacked, however officials have not confirmed the extent of the attack. The latest attack to hit Kenya came as cafes and bars were beginning to fill up with people expected to watch the World Cup game. According to Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the gunmen entered the western town of Mpeketoni, a trading centre on the main coastal road located around 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the border with Somalia, and began “shooting people around in town.” An investigation has been launched with “surveillance aircraft already airborne,” searching for the attackers, who are believed to have fled into a nearby forest.
While unconfirmed reports had initially indicated that the raid may have been linked to a land dispute between rival communities in the remote area, early on Monday Major Chirchir stated that the attackers are “likely to be al-Shabaab.” This statement was confirmed later Monday when a statement released by the militant group indicated that the attack was revenge for the “Kenyan government’s brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya through coercion, intimidation and extrajudicial killings of Muslim scholars.” The group also condemned the “Kenyan military’s continued invasion and occupation of our Muslim lands and the massacre of innocent Muslims in Somalia,’ adding “to the tourists visiting Kenya we say this: Kenya is now a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.”
The latest attack in Kenya comes just weeks after al-Shabaab’s most senior commander, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, released a radio broadcast, urging his fighters to strike Kenya. Rising tensions in Kenya, coupled with on going militant threats and attacks have prompted a number of travel advisories to be issued by countries including the United States and United Kingdom. Following new warnings of terror attacks from Britain’s Foreign Office, hundreds of British tourists were evacuated last month from beach resorts near Kenya’s port city of Mombasa. Earlier this week, Britain released additional warnings to citizens in several East African nations, including Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda, all of which have troops deployed in Somalia. According to Britain’s Foreign Office, there is currently a heightened threat of attacks at public screenings of the World Cup games. With the on going World Cup football tournament set to end on July 13, further attacks on bars and cafes showcasing the games are highly likely to occur.
While Kenya has suffered numerous militant attacks since deploying troops to neighbouring Somalia to combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab in 2011, this is the most deadly attack in the country since at least sixty-seven people were killed during a siege by al-Shabaab fighters at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre last September.