Gunmen Open Fire on a Kenyan Coastal Town, Killing at least 48

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At least 48 people were killed in the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni in an hours-long attack carried out by suspected militants who burned down buildings and fired indiscriminately at residents watching the World Cup. 

Agence France-Presse, which put the death toll at 49, describes the scene: 

Around 50 heavily-armed gunmen drove into the town of Mpeketoni, near the coastal island and popular tourist resort of Lamu, late on Sunday, officials said. Witnesses added they first attacked a police station, before starting to randomly shoot at civilians, some of whom had been watching the World Cup in local bars and hotels.


REUTERS/Joseph Okanga
According to the district's deputy commissioner, Benson Maisori, the attackers set several buildings on fire, including hotels, restaurants, banks and government offices. Maisori added, "There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the Shebab flag. They were shouting in Somali and shouting 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is Greatest')." Witnesses described a horrifying scene. One woman told AFP that the militants "forced their way into our house, found us in the bedroom." She added
They picked up my husband and took him to the sitting room where they demanded money from him, as soon as he gave them some cash, they shot him at close range... Then they turned to me and asked me if I knew Al-Shebab. They told me since 'our government has refused to pull our soldiers from Somalia, they had come to leave us "widows and orphans."

Officials suspect that the Islamist militant group al-Shabab (or al-Shebab) perpetrated the attack, though no group has yet stepped forward to claim responsibility. Last night's incident was the most violent terrorist attack in Kenya since September, when al-Shabab militants killed 67 people at a mall in Nairobi. 

Mpeketoni usually sees many tourists passing through en route to the popular island Lamu, and Kenyan officials fear that the attack will deliver an economic blow to the country's tourist industry. Both the U.S. and UK have issued travel advisories telling their respective citizens to stay away from some areas along the coast. 

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta reportedly called a meeting to discuss security in the area, as some wonder why the attack could have lasted for hours without relief. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.