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48 people die in Kenya town attack

US Embassy staff in Kenya have been warned to exercise caution at venues with World Cup crowds (AP)
US Embassy staff in Kenya have been warned to exercise caution at venues with World Cup crowds (AP)

At least 48 people have died after dozens of extremists attacked a Kenyan coastal town, killing those who were unable to answer questions about Islam or did not know the Somali language, witnesses said.

The assault in Mpeketoni began on Sunday night as residents watched World Cup matches on TV and lasted until early today, with little resistance put up by Kenya's security forces.

Authorities blamed al-Shabab, Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked terror group, who have vowed to carry out terror attacks to avenge the Kenyan military presence in Somali. Along with its Somali fighters, the group also has many Kenyan adherents.

Like the gunmen who attacked Nairobi's Westgate Mall last year, the Mpeketoni attackers gave life-or-death religious tests, a witness said, killing those who were not Muslim.

"They came to our house at around 8pm and asked us in Swahili whether we were Muslims. My husband told them we were Christians and they shot him in the head and chest," said Anne Gathigi.

Another resident, John Waweru, said his two brothers were killed because the attackers did not like that they did not speak Somali.

Mr Waweru said: "My brothers who stay next door to me were killed as I watched. I was peeping from my window and I clearly heard them speak to my brothers in Somali and it seems since my brothers did not meet their expectations, they sprayed them with bullets and moved on."

At the Breeze View Hotel, the gunmen pulled the men aside and ordered the women to watch as they killed them, saying it was what Kenyan troops are doing to Somali men inside Somalia, a police official said.

Kenya's top police commander, David Kimaiyo, said the death toll was 48. A police spokeswoman said authorities believe that several dozen attackers took part.

Mpeketoni is about 20 miles south-west of the tourist centre of Lamu. Any tourism in Mpeketoni is mostly local, with few foreigners visiting the area.

The town is 60 miles from the Somali border and 360 miles from Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Kenya has experienced a wave of gunfire and explosive attacks in recent months.

The US, UK, France, Australia, and Canada have all recently upgraded their terror threat warnings for the country.

US Marines behind sandbag bunkers are now stationed on the roof of the US embassy in Nairobi.

The interior ministry said that at about 8pm on Sunday two minivans entered the town.

Militants disembarked and began shooting. Kenya's National Disaster Operations Centre said military surveillance planes were launched shortly afterwards.

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 al-Shabab in Somalia. Since those attacks and subsequent terror warnings, tourism has dropped off sharply around Lamu.

At least 67 people were killed in September when four al-Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Kenya sent its troops to Somalia in October 2011.


From Belfast Telegraph