Kenya attack: Mpeketoni near Lamu hit by al-Shabab raid
(BBC) – At least 48 people have died after al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked hotels and a police station in a Kenyan coastal town, officials say.
Witnesses in Mpeketoni said gun battles lasted several hours, while several buildings were set on fire.
The town is on the mainland near Lamu island, a well-known tourist resort.
Somalia’s al-Shabab group said the attack was carried out to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the killing of Muslims.
Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to help the weak UN-backed government defeat the militants.
The BBC’s Anne Soy in Mpeketoni says she was told the gunmen shot dead anyone who was unable to recite verses from the Koran.
This is the most deadly attack in Kenya since last September, when at least 67 people were killed during a siege by al-Shabab fighters at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku described the attackers as bandits, and said they had crossed a “red line”.
Police fought fierce battles with the gunmen, who fled into a nearby forest, Mr Ole Lenku said.
Local residents told the BBC the gunmen hijacked a van and used it to attack various locations across Mpeketoni, which tourists travelling by road pass through before crossing to Lamu.
Our correspondent says there are five burnt-out police vehicles in front of the police station, which was the first building to be attacked.
She says she can still smell burning rubber, while smoke is billowing out from one of the vehicles.