Home inContext Al-Shabaab Claims Responsibility for Attack in Kenya

Al-Shabaab Claims Responsibility for Attack in Kenya

Yael Rein

Members of al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked terrorist group based in Somalia, killed at least 48 people in the coastal city of Mpeketoni, Kenya on Sunday. A day later, the militants raided Poromoko, a nearby village, killing an additional 15 people. The gunmen shot dead anyone unable to recite verses from the Koran; all those killed were said to be locals.

Residents told the BBC that the gunmen hijacked a van and used it to attack various sites across the area. Additionally, the militants set five police vehicles on fire and threw explosives into the local police station. The attackers then forcefully entered the station, looting the police’s weapons.

A soldier in the town of Mpeketoni after the first attack. (Photo: AP)

Al-Shabaab said they targeted Mpeketoni because the town, which was originally under Muslim control, had been “invaded and occupied by Christian settlers.” The Shabab also cited the attack as being in revenge to the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia. Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011 hoping to support the UN-backed government in Mogadishu and defeat rival militias vying for power.

The Kenyan interior minister, Joseph Ole Lenku, promised on Monday that Kenya will pursue the attackers. This attack was the deadliest in Kenya since last September, when at least 67 people were killed during the al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate shopping center. Al-Shabaab recently made threats against other western targets in the region and abroad; earlier this month the State Department increased security at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The U.S., UK, France, Australia, and Canada all have recently issued warnings about the threat posed by extremists in Kenya.