Suspected Islamist insurgents in Kenya have raided a police station and set on fire at least three hotels and a petrol station, reportedly killing at least 34 people.The group of gunmen entered the western coastal town of Mpeketoni and started “shooting people around in town”, the interior ministry said.
The assault began at around 8pm on Sunday, with gunshots reported up to four hours later.
Cafes and bars were reported to have been busy with people watching the World Cup on television.
District deputy commissioner Benson Maisori said: “There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the Shabaab flag.
“They were shouting in Somali and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greatest).”
Area police chief Hamaton Mwaliko said: “Attackers hijacked a van from Witu town which they used for the attacks. They raided Mpeketoni police station first and opened fire.”
A local police official said: “More bodies have been found and what we have now is 34.”
He added that “the search for more bodies is still under way”.
The Red Cross also said it believed there were 34 people dead.
Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the “assailants (were) likely to be al Shabaab”, Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
However, no group has claimed responsibility.
Kenya has seen a drop in tourists in recent months following a string of gun and grenade attacks blamed on al Shabaab, Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked insurgents, or its sympathisers.
Mpeketoni lies on the mainland some 20 miles (30km) southwest of Lamu island, a popular tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Al Shabaab, which has fought a bloody seven-year campaign to impose its interpretation of Islamic law inside Somalia, has said it wants to take revenge for Kenya’s deployment of troops in the Horn of Africa nation.
In May, explosions in Nairobi and Mombasa followed a decision by Britain, the US, France and Australia to issue warnings about travel to the east African country.
At least 400 tourists cut short their holidays and left hotels along the Indian Ocean coast.
Kenya called the alerts “unfriendly”, saying they would increase panic and play into the hands of those behind the gun and grenade assaults.