MOMBASA, Kenya: Gunmen killed at least 29 people in raids on two coastal areas of Kenya, the latest in a series of attacks claimed by Somali Islamists who have vowed to drive Kenyan forces out of Somalia, although police cast doubt on their role.
The Interior Ministry said one attack killed nine in the trading town of Hindi in Lamu County, the same district where about 65 people were killed by gunmen last month. Another was further south in the Gamba area, where 20 died.
“They went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately,” said Abdallah Shahasi, a senior official for the Hindi area, where gunmen launched raids in mid-June.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, said in Mogadishu that the Somali group was behind both attacks Saturday night. Al-Shabab had also said it was responsible for the June raids in Lamu County.
But President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed Al-Shabab’s claim last month and blamed local politicians, stoking an already fierce row with the opposition, which denied any role.
Regardless of who is blamed this time, Saturday’s raids will hammer an already beleaguered tourist industry that has been hit by a wave of militant attacks and will deepen public frustrations about poor security in Kenya a day before a big opposition rally is planned for the capital.
At a news conference, police Deputy Inspector General Grace Kaindi said a blackboard, ripped out of a school, was found at a junction near Hindi with scrawling that could implicate the coastal separatist group, the Mombasa Republic Movement (MRC).
“At first we thought it was Al-Shabab, but now it is turning out that it is MRC as they have put it there clearly,” she said, adding other scribbled phrases seemed to back opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Slogans included “MRC – You are sleeping,” “Muslims your land is being grabbed,” “Raila is adequate” and “Uhuru down.”
The MRC swiftly denied any role. “The government should stop using us as a scapegoat,” Randu Nzai Ruwa, the MRC secretary-general, said by telephone.