At least 48 people are confirmed dead in a terrorist attack in the Kenyan coastal city of Mpeketoni in a Sunday rampage, led by Al-Shabab, a Somali al Qaeda-linked group, that claimed responsibility for the hours-long assault.
Members of the Islamist group reportedly went door-to-door, demanding to know if the men inside were Muslim, and if they spoke Somali, eyewitnesses told CTV News in a series of interviews early Monday. The random attacks depended largely on whether or not the assailants liked the answers to their questions, if not, they would spray gunfire into the residences.
The attacks took place Sunday evening, as scores of residents sat watching the World Cup Soccer matches on television, and lasted well into Monday morning. The Al-Shabab attacks in Kenya also suggests an escalation of Islamist attacks spiking across Africa, as the world focuses attention on the still missing students in Borno, Nigeria.
In a story many in Nigeria’s Northeastern region know all too well, Kenyan military forces did not arrive in Mpeketoni until well after the Al-Shabab insurgents had left town, shortly before daybreak. Residents who survived, and military forces who turned up were met with smoldering cars, buildings burnt to the ground, and dirt streets lined with dead bodies in the aftermath of the carnage.
Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the attackers fled into the nearby wilds, known as the Boni Forest after a "fierce exchange of fire" with security forces. He said 20 vehicles had been set on fire.
At a news conference, Ole Lenku was put on the defensive about the government's security record after a string of attacks. He also warned opposition politicians against inciting violence, saying it was possible the attack was linked to politics. Security experts in Kenya immediately dismissed the claim.
Kenya, like Nigeria, has experienced a wave of gunfire and bomb and grenade attacks in recent months. The U.S., U.K., France, Australia, and Canada have all recently upgraded their terror threat warnings for the country. U.S. Marines behind sandbag bunkers have for some days been stationed on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters in a news conference that U.S. officials had condemned the Mpeketoni attacks, in a statement. Psaki did not say whether U.S. officials had issued, or would issue, travel warnings to American tourists.
Mpeketoni is about 30 kilometres southwest of the tourist centre of Lamu. Any tourism in Mpeketoni is mostly local, with few foreigners visiting the area. The town is 100 kilometres from the Somali border and 600 kilometres from Nairobi.
Earlier, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, held a crisis meeting with the country’s top security chiefs at State House, in Nairobi, following the Mpeketoni terrorist attack, according to CAPITAL NEWS.
Amani Coalition’s Musalia Mudavadi also mourned victims of Sunday night’s massacre and advised President Kenyatta to appoint an independent commission of inquiry to probe operations of security structures with the sole objective of recommending an overhaul.
“The “Bloody Sunday” slaughter, whether by local or foreign elements, is an invasion of our country. As we mourn the dead and condemn laxity in security organs, we must be aware that terrorism is meant to spread fear, division, blame and disaffection. I therefore appeal to for caution in this crisis and not give the masterminds their pound of flesh,” Musalia Mudavadi said.
With the recent spate of violence incidents touching the country, spokesmen like Mudavadi, say that Kenya, like Nigeria, is a nation increasingly under siege from militants. The unprovoked attacks in Mpeketoni, for many, underscores a widely held perception across the country.