Somali militants who murdered 48 people in a Kenyan village as they watched the World Cup went door to door asking residents if they were Muslim or spoke Somali – and shot them dead if either answer was ‘no’, witnesses revealed today.
The attack on the coastal village of Mpeketoni, about 30-miles southwest of the tourist centre of Lamu, came at the end of a weekend of bloodshed that has exposed the world to the shocking depravity of terrorists, apparently emboldened by each other’s acts.
Witnesses told how about 30 gunmen – believed to be members of Somali terror group al-Shabaab – arrived in the town in minibuses at 8pm yesterday before bursting into residents homes, shooting dead any man they thought was not Muslim.
‘They came to our house at around 8pm and asked us in Swahili whether we were Muslims,’ said Anne Gathigi. ‘My husband told them we were Christians and they shot him in the head and chest.’
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.
In Kenya, dozens of extremists attacked a Kenyan coastal town for hours, killing those who weren’t Muslim and those who didn’t know the Somali language, officials and witnesses said today. At least 48 people were killed and two hotels were set on fire.
The assault in Mpeketoni began on Sunday night as residents watched World Cup matches on TV and lasted until early on Monday morning, with little resistance put up by Kenya’s security forces. Cars and buildings still smoldered at daybreak.
Authorities blamed al-Shabaab, Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked terror group, who have vowed to carry out terror attacks to avenge the Kenyan military presence in Somali. Along with its Somali fighters, the group also has many Kenyan adherents. By midday Monday the group had not claimed responsibility.
Like the gunmen who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate Mall last year, the Mpeketoni attackers gave life-or-death religious assessment, a witness said, killing those who were not Muslim.
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.
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 forced to defend 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 who are now a staple of Kenyan news shows.
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 the capital, Nairobi.
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Tara Brady and Matthew Blake