June 16, 2014

KENYA: Bloodthirsty Islamist Militant Al-Shabaab Demons Hunted Non-Muslims Only Going Door To Door In Kenyan Tourist-Region Town, Murdered 48 On Sunday. Religion Of Peace Eh?

The Wall Street Journal
written by Heidi Vogt
Monday June 16, 2014

MPEKETONI, Kenya—The gunmen who raided a town along Kenya's popular Indian Ocean coast, killing at least 48 people, shouted "God is great!" and in some cases asked men to recite Quranic verses before shooting those who couldn't, residents said on Monday.

The attack as described by residents was planned and methodical: Dozens of gunmen wearing military uniforms split into three groups—one headed toward the cinema where many were watching a World Cup match, another toward the hotels, and a third to the center of town. They rapped on the doors of houses and inns demanding that those inside surrender themselves. When people came out into the open, they pulled the women and children aside, then shot the men.

After hours of shooting, the assailants slunk off into the forest with few apparent deaths or arrests. A Red Cross branch manager for the region, Mohammed Abdul Kadir, said the majority of the bodies had been identified as townspeople, save one that was burned beyond recognition and one that was wearing a uniform and could be either a Kenyan policeman or one of the attackers.

Local media reported receiving a statement from Somali militant group al-Shabaab claiming responsibility for the attack. The group, which is allied with al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for scores of attacks in Kenya, including last year's four-day assault on a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The attack started around 8 p.m. on Sunday when two Nissan minibuses drove into the center of the small town of Mpeketoni and passengers jumped out shooting, Kenya's Interior Ministry said. They also set fire to buildings throughout town—including two hotels, a bank and gas station—and torched dozens of vehicles. Those who escaped hid in back rooms or under cars. One elderly man said he and his family escaped out their back door and he squeezed under a truck. He said he saw the flashlights of the gunmen looking for people and heard their voices, but they didn't look in his hiding spot. He said he heard them speaking Somali and Swahili.

"We fully secured the town for 10 hours before withdrawing, leaving behind a trail of destruction and scores dead," al-Shabaab was quoted as saying. The militants' statement cited the deployment of Kenyan troops to Somalia and what it called Kenya's extrajudicial killings of Muslim scholars, a charge Nairobi has denied.

The men shouted "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great," as they fired, said Isaac Mwangi Irongu, who ran away but later found out his brother had been killed. Mr. Kadir said almost all of the victims were killed either by very close-up gunshots or had their throats slit. Kenya's Red Cross said at least 48 people had been killed.

One Mpeketoni resident, a 28-year-old bus-station employee, said gunmen asked him to recite a Quranic verse in what he said was an apparent effort to identify Muslims. The man, who is a Christian, said he was spared from being shot after he was able to recall a verse in Arabic.

School soccer coach Moses Kuria, 27, said he was watching a World Cup match at the town cinema with a crowd of people when they heard firing outside. He ran out of the building along with many others, while some decided to try to hide inside. Mr. Kuria started to run home but saw the hotel near his house ablaze and two dead bodies in the street, so he took shelter at another hotel. He said he was lucky not to lose any relatives or close friends in the attack, but still knew many who died. "Some of them did not run and now some of those are dead," Mr. Kuria said.

Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said fighting had subsided by Monday morning and the assailants had "retreated back to the forest." He said it was unclear how many attackers there were, but that officials believed it was between 20 and 30. The Red Cross estimated there were about 50 attackers.

It was unclear when during the night Kenyan police responded to the attack. The gunfire had subsided by morning without any obvious signs of a confrontation. On Monday afternoon, Kenya's interior minister and police inspector general flew to Mpeketoni on a military helicopter and promised an investigation and justice.

Gen. David Kimaiyo, the police inspector general, addressed the frustration that police didn't prevent the assault in a discussion with residents.

"The issue as to why people have been attacked when we have employed officers on the ground is the question," he said, adding that police should have been on patrol in the area.

The attack followed security warnings issued by the U.S., U.K., France, Canada and Australia in recent months. The countries have all warned of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Kenya, many specifically mentioning the coast.

There have been heightened security alerts issued around the World Cup, when many people would be gathered in bars and restaurants to watch the soccer matches.

In 2010, multiple bomb blasts in Kampala, Uganda, targeting soccer fans watching the tournament in bars and restaurants, killed 79 people.

Sunday's attack was the latest in a spate of deadly assaults in Kenya. In September, a four-day siege of a shopping mall by Somali militants in Nairobi killed at least 67 people, stoking public fears of terrorism. The mall attack also triggered a broad security crackdown that included deportations of Somali residents in Kenya.

It was unclear why Mpeketoni, which doesn't typically draw foreign tourists, would be targeted. The town is about 60 miles from the Somali border, and about 6 miles from the coast.


CNS news
written by Tom Odula, AP
Monday June 16, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya  — The gunmen went door to door in the Kenyan costal town, demanding to know if the men inside were Muslim and if they spoke Somali. If the extremists did not like the answers, they opened fire, witnesses said on Monday.

Al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaida-linked group, claimed responsibility for the hours-long assault on Mpeketoni in which 48 people were killed. The attack began Sunday night as residents watched World Cup matches on TV and lasted until early Monday, with little resistance from Kenya's security forces.

After daybreak, Kenyan troops and residents stared at the bodies lying on dirt streets by still-smoldering buildings. Two hotels and many vehicles were set on fire.

The attack highlights the growing incidents of Islamic extremist violence in a country that was once viewed as the bastion of stability in East Africa, drawing tourists from around the world for safaris and beach holidays. The U.S. ambassador made Kenya's entire coastal region off-limits for embassy employees after the attack.

The merciless life-or-death religious assessment recalled al-Shabab's attack on an upscale mall in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, last September in which at least 67 people were killed, some of them after not being able to answer questions about Islam.

The Interior Ministry said that at about 8 p.m. Sunday, two minivans entered the town. Militants disembarked and began shooting. At the Breeze View Hotel, the gunmen pulled the men aside and ordered the women to watch as they killed them, saying it was what Kenyan troops are doing to Somali men inside Somalia, a police commander said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share such details of the attack.

The several dozen gunmen also went door to door.

"They came to our house at around 8 p.m. 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.

Another resident, John Waweru, said his two brothers were killed because the attackers did not like that the brothers did not speak 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.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the attackers fled into the nearby wilds, known as the Boni Forest after a "fierce exchange of fire" with security forces. He said 20 vehicles had been set on fire.

At a news conference, Ole Lenku was put on the defensive about the government's security record after a string of attacks. He also warned opposition politicians against inciting violence, saying it was possible the attack was linked to politics. The claim was immediately dismissed by security experts.

Al-Shabab later said it carried out the attack because of Kenya's "brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya," including the killings of Muslim scholars in Mombasa. The group said that such attacks would continue "as you continue to invade our lands and oppress innocent Muslims."

Tourists were then warned: "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."

Kenya's top police commander, David Kimaiyo, said the death toll was 48. A police spokeswoman said authorities believe that several dozen attackers took part.

Mpeketoni is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of the tourist center of Lamu. Any tourism in Mpeketoni is mostly local, with few foreigners visiting the area. The town is 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Somali border and 360 miles (600 kilometers) from Nairobi.

Kenya has experienced a wave of gunfire and bomb and grenade attacks in recent months. The U.S., U.K., France, Australia, and Canada have all recently upgraded their terror threat warnings for the country. U.S. Marines behind sandbag bunkers have for some days been stationed on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

Harald Kampa, who heads an association of hoteliers and caterers on the coast, said he wasn't aware of any immediate tourist cancellations because of the attack. But he said the attack could soon prompt more cancellations. Kenya's deteriorating security situation and travel warnings from foreign embassies has already hit the country's tourism sector.

The region saw a spate of kidnappings of foreign tourists in 2011 that Kenya said was part of its motivation for attacking al-Shabab in Somalia. Since those attacks and subsequent terror warnings, tourism has dropped off sharply around Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country's oldest continually inhabited town.

Al-Shabab claimed responsbility for a double bombing in Kampala, Uganda during the 2010 World Cup final that killed more than 70 people.

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