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 27 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.
It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved.
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.
“Some hotels in the town are on fire. We don’t know how many casualties are there for now. We understand the attackers have already fled but our officers are pursuing them.”
Local government official Benson Maisori told the AFP news agency: “So far we have collected over 26 bodies and taken them to the mortuary, but we are still looking for more.”
The Red Cross, which has personnel in the area, said at least 34 people had been killed.
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.
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16 June 2014 | 5:41 am – Source: orange.co.uk