Armed extremists went door to door in Mpeketoni on June 16, trying to find out if men inside the houses were Muslim and spoke Somali. If they did not receive the desired responses, they opened fire, said witnesses at the crime scenes. Al-Shabab, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the region, claimed responsibility for the assaults that killed at least 48 people in the coastal town of Kenya.
The attacks by Al-Shabab started on June 15, while residents were watching World Cup matches on the television and carried through the next day, with little interference from security forces, according to local residents. Apart from innocent people being killed, two hotels and several vehicles were set on fire as well. The merciless murders were reminiscent of Al-Shabab’s attacks in an upscale mall in Nairobi in September 2013, where at least 67 people were killed after they failed to answer questions related to Islam.
‘‘They came to our house at around 8 pm and asked us in Swahili whether we were Muslims. My husband told them we were Christians and they shot him in the head and chest,’’ said Anne Gathigi, a resident of Mpeketoni.
Another local John Waweru said his brothers were killed because they did not speak in Somali.
‘‘My brothers who stay next door to me were killed as I watched. I was peeping from my window and I clearly heard them speak to my brothers in Somali and it seems since my brothers did not meet their expectations, they sprayed them with bullets and moved on,’’ said Waweru.
Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said security forces attacked the gunmen fiercely, which is when they fled into the nearby wilds known as the Boni Forest. When Lenku was put on the defensive about Kenya’s security record, he asked opposition political parties not to incite violence, suggesting the attacks were linked with politics. However, security forces dismissed this claim.
After taking responsibility for the attacks, Al-Shabab said it condemned Kenya’s “brutal oppression of Muslims” that were apparent during the killing of Muslim scholars in Mombasa. Al-Shabab threatened that such attacks would continue if the government did not stop oppressing innocent Muslims.
‘‘Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril. Foreigners with any regard for their safety and security should stay away from Kenya,’’ the group said.
Photo Credit: Reuters