Kenyan militants claimed responsibility for two attacks on coastal cities within two days, but President Uhuru Kenyatta said al Shabab did not perpetrate the violence.
On Sunday night, gunmen killed at least 48 people in Mpeketoni, and on Monday night several others were killed in the nearby Poromoko and Pagani, both popular with tourists.
Al Shabab, a militant group with Somali ties, claimed responsibility for both attacks. "Our operations in Kenya will continue," the group's spokesman told Reuters, adding that the militants had killed about 20 people on Monday. Of Sunday night's attack, the group said "we fully secured the town for 10 hours before withdrawing, leaving behind a trail of destruction and scores dead." The group is demanding that Kenya pull troops out of Somalia and accused the government of killing Muslim clerics in Mombasa, India -- a charge the government denies.
Witnesses to the attack told Reuters that non-Muslims appeared to have been targeted, as the were in Mpeketoni:
Omar Awadh Salim, a 48-year-old father of two, said masked men in military fatigues broke into his house and other properties in Poromoko just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday. "They ordered all of us to get out of the house, and then asked us to recite 'shahada'. We all did and they let us back into the house and proceeded to the next,” he told Reuters.
It's unclear how many were actually killed during Monday's assault. The New York Times reports at least eight confirmed dead, and Reuters, citing Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku, put the figure at no less than 15. And a dozen women were reportedly taken in the attack:
Kenyans are furious with their government for not making enough of an effort to stem the attacks. One Mpeketoni resident told the Wall Street Journal that officials visited via helicopter but are not taking enough action on the ground. Civilians have set up checkpoints on roads leading to Poromoko and Pagani, but police don't appear to be involved in the security effort. But Lenku has defended the country's security practices, which involve questioning thousands of Somali immigrants and refugees about the group, and said on Monday that "the perpetrators of this heinous act will be pursued to the full force of the law.”
Despite the group's claims that it carried out the attacks, President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the attack on the opposition, not al Shabab:
The president also said that officials were given intelligence ahead of the attack, and ignored it:
President Kenyatta: #MpeketoniAttack was not an Al-Shabaab attack. Local leaders were involved. Local security authority had intelligence— Mark Masai (@MarkMasai) June 17, 2014
It's unclear whether the president intends to bolster security personnel in the affected areas.