16 Jun 2014

Islamic militants attack Kenyan hotels

8:57 pm on 16 June 2014

At least 48 people have been killed and others wounded after more than two dozen unidentified gunmen attacked a coastal Kenyan town, police and the Kenya Red Cross said on Monday.

The attackers targeted two hotels, a bank and a police station with guns and at least one explosive device on Sunday night. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Police said the gunmen could have been Islamist militants or criminals and no arrests have yet been made.

The al-Shabab militants achieved notoriety with their attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, in September 2013.

The al-Shabab militants achieved notoriety with their attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, in September 2013. Photo: AFP

The assault was the latest in a string of gun and bomb attacks that have hurt Kenya's vital tourist business and which have been blamed on Somalia's Al Shabaab militant group. Western nations have issued travel warnings in the wake of the assaults, Reuters reports.

Sunday's toll is the highest since 67 people were killed in an attack at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in September last year. That raid was claimed by Al Shabaab, which said it want to force Kenya to withdraw troops from Somalia. Kenya has said it won't.

"More bodies have been recovered and right now we are talking about 48 dead persons," Lamu County police commander Leonard Omollo told Reuters.

"All the dead are men. There are no women or children, and this fairly complicates matters. We may not tell immediately whether the attacks were done by Al Shabaab, the MRC (Mombasa Republican Council) or just mere criminals," Mr Omollo said.

The MRC is an illegal movement that wants the coastal region to secede. It has not recently been linked to attacks of this scale. Since the Westgate attack, Al Shabaab have promised to strike again.

The Kenya Red Cross said some of the casualties had been evacuated to a hospital in Lamu, a popular tourist destination that lies about 30km away.

Those killed include a policeman who worked as a driver for a police chief in the towns, said David Kimaiyo, the inspector general of Kenya's police. Many Mpeketoni residents had fled from the attack into nearby forests, he said.

Mpeketoni is about 130km or more than three hours' drive along poor roads, from the border with Somalia, where Kenya forces have joined an African peacekeeping force fighting al Shabaab militants.