16 Jun 2014

At least 48 dead after militants attack Kenyan coast

The Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab says it carried out an attack on the Kenyan coast which left at least 48 people dead. Militants opened fire as football fans gathered to watch the World Cup.

Police said Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamist group was most likely to blame for Sunday night’s assault on the town of Mpeketoni, which lies on the Indian Ocean coastline.

Around 30 gunmen sped into town in two vans and opened fire on a hall where fans had gathered to watch a World Cup match. They also targeted hotels and a bank, police and witnesses said on Monday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault, which is just the latest in a spate of gun and bomb attacks in recent months that have damaged Kenya‘s struggling tourist industry. But the militant group al-Shabaab is likely to be behind the attack, officials said.

Sunday’s assault is the worst since last September when al-Shabaab gunmen attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, leaving 67 people dead.

Kenyan officials had said the country would be on alert for attacks during the World Cup to ensure public showings of matches were kept safe. Back in 2010, al-Shabaab bombed crowds watching World Cup matches on television in the Ugandan capital Kampala, killing 77 people.

Read more: After Westgate, Kenya goes to war against al-Shabaab

“The attackers were so many and were all armed with guns. They entered the video hall where we were watching a World Cup match and shot indiscriminately at us,” Meshack Kimani told Reuters.

“They targeted only men but I was lucky. I escaped by hiding behind the door.”

Kenyan hotels say bookings have dropped sharply because of recent attacks and in the wake of warnings by western nations about travel to Kenya. Some hotels on the coast say they face closure, while some hoteliers in-land who offer safari trips, say that reservations are down by 30 per cent or more.