Monday, June 16, 2014

At Least 50 Slain By Islamist Gunmen in Northern Kenya

Police and eyewitnesses in the coastal town of Mpeketoni say that dozens of gunmen attacked on Sunday night, killing at least fifty after opening fire on pedestrians, hotels and fans gathered to watch a World Cup match in a meeting hall and setting fire to houses and vehicles.

According to witnesses, the attackers arrived in minibuses and fanned out. Some of them accosted villagers and shopkeepers before asking if they were Muslim or spoke Somali- apparently shooting them if they received an unsatisfactory answer. Others proceeded to hotels or the meeting hall where the World Cup was being shown, separated the women from the men before shooting them in front of the women. The rampage reportedly lasted for more than three hours before the gunmen were pursued by arriving Kenyan troops.

The Somalia-based Al Shabaab terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a Somali website. Al Shabaab seeks to topple Somalia's UN-backed government in Mogadishu and replace it with an Islamic state governed by Shari'a law and has launched cross-border raids into Kenya, attacking police and abducting westerners for ransom. The group has previously launched terrorist attacks in Kenya and Uganda in retaliation for those nations sending troops to Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping force. Last September, Al Shabaab terrorists launched a brazen attack in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed at least 67. In 2010, Al Shabaab was responsible for twin suicide bombings of crowds gathered to watch the World Cup in Uganda's capital of Kampala.

Mpekitoni is located near the Lamu Islands and about 100km south of the border with Somalia and near the UNESCO World Heritage site on Lamu Island and has been popular with tourists since the 1970s. However, a number of Western governments- including the USA, UK, Canada, France and Australia- have issued advisories to their citizens about travelling in Kenya and Al Shabaab had previously threatened that tourists visiting Kenya were jeopardizing their lives by doing so.

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