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Frequent attacks dent Kenya's already dwindling reputation

08 July 2014, 13:27

Garissa - Gunmen in Kenya launched two separate attacks, killing one person by hurling a grenade into a restaurant in the restive northeast, and torching conservation offices on the coast near Lamu, police said Tuesday.

At least one person was killed and several injured late Monday in the grenade blast in a restaurant in Kenya's northeastern town of Wajir, before spraying the building with bullets and escaping, police said.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the killing, the latest in a string of attacks along Kenya's border region with war-torn Somalia.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shabab have launched attacks in the area, but the region has also witnessed weeks of revenge attacks between rival Somali clans, with at least 80 killed since May in fighting over land and grazing for livestock.

The remote, rural region is one of Kenya's most volatile areas, awash with guns and armed bandits.

In a separate attack, gunmen in the coastal Lamu district torched offices late Monday of a conservation organization, following a series of massacres in nearby settlements, government officials said.

"They set ablaze the camp and also several vehicles, then there was also shooting between the attackers and police at the base," said government official Shahasi Abdalla, the local area chief.

Tourism industry hit hard

The attack occurred late Monday at Amu Ranch, some 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of the coastal town of Lamu, at a community-run wildlife reserve.

"No one was killed or wounded in the attack," Abdalla told AFP.

The ranch hosts offices of the Lamu Conservation Trust, which works to support local peoples and traditional ways of life, and protect some 63,000 acres of coastal forest inhabited by elephants and buffalo.

There was no claim of responsibility for that attack either, but it follows several killings in the area which claimed at least 87 lives, according to the Red Cross.

Last month more than 60 people were massacred at Mpeketoni, also in Lamu district while on Saturday, at least 22 were killed in twin attacks in the trading post of Hindi and the town of Gamba, further inland.

The Shebab have claimed responsibility for previous attacks in the Lamu area, saying they were in retaliation for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force supporting the country's fragile and internationally-backed government.

However, police have blamed the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence of the coastal region, while Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta accused "local political networks" and criminal gangs.

Lamu island has in the past hosted wealthy visitors including celebrities. In January, American actress Kristin Davies visited the Amu Ranch where the attack took place, as part of her work supporting elephant conservation efforts.

But the unrest in the coastal region has already badly dented Kenya's tourist industry -- a key foreign currency earner and massive employer for the country -- at one of its traditionally busiest times of the year.

In a further blow to the sector, a Russian tourist was murdered on Saturday in Kenya's port city of Mombasa while touring Fort Jesus -- a 16th century Portuguese-built fort and a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- in what police said was "normal thuggery".

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