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Four people killed by gunmen in Mpeketoni attack

16 June 2014, 08:01

Mombasa - At least four people were killed and several others injured after Al-Shabaab militants burnt down hotels and a police station in the coastal town of Mpeketoni town in the mainland part of Lamu District on Sunday night, said police authorities.

Eyewitnesses told Xinhua they had seen four bodies lying on the street and residents fleeing the trading center on the main coastal road amid sporadic shootings between the police and the militants who were estimated to be around 20.

"I have seen some bodies lying on the streets as I was fleeing the town," said one witness who sought anonymity. He said the residents were fleeing the area into the nearby forests as police continued to battle unknown hooded gunmen.

There was no official confirmation of the casualties. Some residents said the attack took place at around 8 p.m. local time and gunshots could be heard three hours later.

"We heard explosion that followed by serious gun battle. I saw at least four bodies among them a woman killed in the shopping centre," Salim Cheka, an eyewitness who resides in the area, told Xinhua. "We urge the government to deploy more police officers tonight as there is still gun battle in the area between the police and the hooded gunmen."

More than 20 gunmen ambushed police station and set ablaze at least four hotels including the Breeze View Hotel, Taweel restaurant and a petrol station, said other eyewitnesses.

The heavily armed men were believed to have commandeered a van from Witu area. Senior police officers told Xinhua that security agencies were engaging the gunmen in fierce shootings.

Military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir confirmed the attack and blamed the Somali insurgents behind the latest attacks in the coastal town which had been previously hit by bandits.

At around 8 p.m., two Nissan vans with unknown occupants entered Mpeketoni and the people inside the vans started shooting people around in town, with assailants likely belonging Al-Shabaab. Surveillance aircraft was already airborne, Chirchir said in his Twitter account.

The attack came two days after the British government closed its consulate office in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa citing security concerns.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it would provide normal consular assistance to its nationals through the Nairobi office.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Nairobi Stephen Burns confirmed the development, saying the decision had been taken after careful assessment of the security on the ground.

Mpeketoni, a small town in the main part of Lamu district, has been under siege since two hours ago, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that it was done by the Al-Shabaab fighters.

Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo confirmed the attack of the police station and the hotels but said he was still awaiting full details of the attack.

The latest incident came in the wake of a growing number of Muslim youths going radicalization in the coastal region. The police said they are monitoring the radicalized youths implicated in several attacks including killing of Muslim clerics.

The government says armed attacks and kidnappings threaten the country's tourism industry -- a key driver of the economy.

Al-Shabaab militants have vowed to attack Nairobi after the east African nation's soldiers crossed into Somalia in 2011 to flush out the insurgents it blamed for kidnappings of tourists.

 - Xinhua

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