Kenyan coastal region of Lamu hit by deadly attacks

media caption"Northern Kenya is a virtual no-go area for tourists these days", reports Peter Biles

At least 29 people have been killed in two deadly shooting attacks in Kenya's coastal districts, the interior ministry has said.

Witnesses said heavily armed men raided a trading centre in the village of Hindi, in Lamu county, and a police station in Gamba, Tana River county, overnight on Saturday.

The Somali militant Islamist group al-Shabab said it was behind the killings.

It has made past claims it conducted various other attacks in the region.

Deputy President William Ruto, who is currently visiting the region, is on his way to Gamba.

Analysis: Mary Harper, BBC News

Al-Shabab is increasingly becoming a regional force. Outside Somalia, Kenya is its main target.

The nature of its attacks there is changing, with a growing use of armed units rather than grenades, improvised explosive devices and single targeted assassinations.

It would be wrong to think of al-Shabab as a purely Somali movement. Young, disaffected Muslim men, many from the Kenyan coast, provide a fertile recruiting ground.

Al-Shabab has a sophisticated propaganda machine, with radio broadcasts in the local Kiswahili language, and Kiswahili websites with instructions on how to make bombs.

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe attacks set fire to homes, vehicles and government buildings in the area
image copyrightAFP
image captionA number of people were injured in the two attacks

Witnesses said about a dozen armed men had appeared in Hindi late on Saturday evening and opened fire.

"They went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately," area chief Abdallah Shahasi told Reuters.

County commissioner Miiri Njenga told the agency some government offices and properties had been burned down.

All those killed were adult men apart from one teenage boy shot as he tried to flee, the AFP news agency said.

One woman in the town said the attackers had burned down her home but said they did not want to kill women.

"They said they were attacking because Muslims' lands were being taken," she told AFP.

Suspect freed

The Red Cross said another nine people - eight civilians and one police officer - were killed in Gamba, and one person was also missing. The ministry said 20 had died there.

media captionKenyan Police's deputy inspector general Grace Kaindi described the Gamba attack as "fierce shoot-out"
image copyrightAP
image captionPolice and locals searched for clues at Gamba police station the day after the attack
image copyrightAFP
image captionA sign believed to have been left by the raiders indicated the attack was revenge for Kenya's anti-terror operations in Somalia

Gunmen broke into the town's police station, reportedly freeing at least one suspect who had been detained over a deadly al-Shabab-claimed attack two weeks ago.

One police source told Reuters it was not yet clear how many detainees had been released.

Attacks in the Lamu area early last month killed at least 60 people, as gunmen descended on hotels and a police station near Mpeketoni, and attacked locals as they were watching a World Cup match.

Timeline of Somali raids in Kenya

  • September 2011: UK national Judith Tebbutt kidnapped and her husband David killed in raid on Kiwayu island, north of Lamu. She was released six months later by a pirate gang
  • October 2011: Kenya sends troops into Somalia following Tebbutt's kidnapping and cross-border raids by al-Shabab; Al-Shabab warns of revenge attacks
  • Since then, numerous attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and north-eastern region of Kenya, inhabited by ethnic Somalis
  • September 2013: At least 67 people killed after al-Shabab militants take control of Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
  • May 2014: UK issues travel advisory, warning of increased risk of terror attack in Nairobi and coastal areas - UK tourists evacuated
  • June 2014: At least 48 people killed in raid on Mpeketoni

Al-Shabab has said it carried out the attacks in retaliation for Kenya's military actions against its operations in Somalia.

But Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has blamed the Mpeketoni attacks on political networks. Opposition parties have dismissed the president's claims.

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