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  • Writer's pictureOrina Ontiri

Kenya attack: Five suspects shot dead near Mpeketoni

Kenyan security forces have killed five people suspected of involvement in attacks that killed at least 60 people, officials say.

The interior ministry said the suspects were shot dead while trying to escape Kenyan forces near Mpeketoni.

The small coastal town was the scene of two deadly attacks earlier this week.

Islamist militants al-Shabab said they were behind the attacks but President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed it on “criminal gangs” and “local political networks”.

The AFP news agency spoke to a senior military official who confirmed that five suspects had been killed but said other suspected attackers had escaped.

“Others escaped after an exchange of fire with our men, but five were killed,” the officer said. “They were armed with AK-47 rifles and it is believed they were involved in the attacks.”

Gunmen killed dozens of people in Mpeketoni on Sunday night, attacking the local police station and setting two hotels on fire before rampaging through the town.

The assault on the town, which is near the popular tourist resort of Lamu island, was followed by further attacks on nearby villages on Monday.

The attacks were the deadliest in Kenya since Somalia’s al-Shabab militants killed 67 people in an attack on a shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, last September.

The al-Qaeda-linked group said it had carried out the Mpeketoni attacks to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia, who were sent there in 2011 to help fight the militants.

But President Kenyatta dismissed al-Shabab’s claims, saying the violence had been instigated by local politicians and carried out by an “opportunist network of other criminal gangs”.

Most of the dead were ethnic Kikuyus, like the president.

Mpeketoni has long-standing political and ethnic divisions, and correspondents say local ethnic Somalis or Oromos may have targeted them and tried to blame al-Shabab by flying the group’s flag.

Many locals accuse the government of helping Kikuyus get rich by giving them land – the same complaint that was behind the deadly ethnic violence that swept Kenya after disputed elections in 2007.

President Kenyatta described the attacks as “politically motivated ethnic violence against against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons”.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost to Mr Kenyatta in the 2007 election, denied any role in the violence and said the president’s comments were “unfortunate and unjustified”.

The BBC’s Muliro Telewa in Nairobi says Kenyans are hoping that security forces will be able to find evidence that clears up the doubt over the identity of the gunmen.


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