Monday, 16 June 2014

Armed men target Kenya hotels

Armed men target Kenya hotels

On 15 July close to 50 people were killed and buildings set on fire after unidentified armed men attacked the coastal town of Mpeketoni in Kenya’s Lamu County. According to the Chief of Kenya’s police force, David Kimaiyo, the buildings targeted included several hotels, a bank and the town’s police station, which seems to have been attacked first.

Local reports say that approximately 50 heavily-armed men in three vehicles entered the town at around 20.30 local time (17.30 GMT), shooting people at random and storming various buildings before setting them alight. It is believed that most locals were in Mpeketoni’s cafes watching the World Cup match on television at the time. 

Late last night Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre released a statement attributing the violence to Somali militant group al-Shabaab. The group has been responsible for a number of attacks on Kenyan soil in recent years following Nairobi’s deployment of troops into Mogadishu on 16 October 2011 and its subsequent integration into the African Union forces fighting in the beleaguered Horn of Africa state. 

Lamu County is in the heart of Kenya’s tourist region, with Mpeketoni located just 30km south west of Lamu Island, a popular UNESCO world heritage site. Despite this, it appears that it was local residents that were targeted in this attack as opposed to foreigners, who constitute al-Shabaab’s typical victims. However, Mpeketoni is a largely Christian community and, being situated less than 100km from the Somali border, means that it is at high risk of cross-border attacks.

Al-Shabaab’s radio station in Somalia has broadcast messages denying responsibility for the attack. 

For more news and expert analysis about East Africa, please see East Africa Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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