A policeman wearing a mask stands guard outside the
mortuary containing slain bodies of people killed when
gunmen attacked the coastal Kenyan town of Mpeketoni.
Somali-linked Islamists have killed at least 50 people in
a Kenyan coastal town, executing men in front of their families
and killing others who had gathered to watch World Cup football
The al Shabaab group said that its commandos launched Sunday
night's (local time) strike on Mpeketoni because Kenya had
sent its forces to Somalia and accused Nairobi of
assassinating Muslim scholars, a charge Kenyan officials have
"Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists
visiting the country do so at their own peril," it said,
after staging the biggest assault since its gunmen attacked
Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in September, leaving 67
Mpeketoni, where shells of buildings smouldered and pools of
blood congealed on the streets, is not normally a stopover
for foreign visitors on Kenya's popular coast, but the attack
is likely to hurt further an already struggling tourist
Western nations have in recent weeks tightened their warnings
about travel to Kenya, which has been hit by a spate of
recent gun attacks and bombings in Nairobi and around the
main port of Mombasa, though none have been as serious as
"The attackers were so many and were all armed with guns.
They entered the video hall where we were watching a World
Cup match and shot indiscriminately at us," Meshack Kimani
told Reuters, adding about 10 people were killed there.
"They targeted only men but I was lucky. I escaped by hiding
behind the door," he said.
FAMILIES WATCH MEN KILLED
Other witnesses said those gathering for the screenings fled
just before the attackers arrived but were found in hiding
places and then shot. Hotels, a bank and a police station
were also attacked, leaving a trail of dead across the town.
"The wives who came to identify the bodies said the attackers
forced them and their children to watch as they killed their
husbands," said Peter Kamotho, a tailor volunteering at a
makeshift morgue where bodies of 48 men lay under a cover.
A Reuters witness saw several men with shots directly to the
head. Kamotho said they had been shot at close range.
Muiruri Kinyanjui, the Kenya Red Cross regional director for
the coastal area, said the death toll was at least 50 but
could rise because many residents were still unaccounted for
while others had suffered serious injuries.
Many people fled to nearby forests for safety.
Some of the wounded were taken to a hospital in Lamu, a
historic Arab trading port that is a big tourist attraction
about 30 km (20 miles) from Mpeketoni, which is on the
coastline between Mombasa and the Somali border in the north.
Kenyan hotels say bookings have dropped sharply because of
recent attacks and Western travel warnings. Some hotels on
the coast say they face closure, while some hoteliers inland
who offer safaris say reservations are down by 30 percent or
Witnesses said gunmen roamed for hours into Monday morning.
Issah Birido, who hid up a tree shrouded in darkness, said he
heard them chanting slogans and speaking in Somali, a
language many Kenyan citizens with Somali origins also speak.
WORLD CUP ALERTS
Kenya, which has blamed al Shabaab for the previous attacks,
had said it would be on alert during the World Cup to ensure
public showings of matches were kept safe.
Although the gunmen struck a range of sites, the assault is
likely to heighten worries in other African states such as
Nigeria, which is battling the Boko Haram Islamist
insurgency, that venues hosting World Cup screenings could be
After Westgate, al Shabaab had warned of more attacks, saying
it was determined to drive out Kenyan forces battling the
Islamist militants in Somalia along with other African
peacekeepers. Kenya has repeatedly said it would not
The al Shabaab statement also referred to the killing in
drive-by shootings of at least three high-profile Kenyan
Muslim preachers, seen as sympathetic to militant Islam.
Supporters of the clerics have said their deaths were
Kenya has denied the charge. Police have not found the gunmen
behind those shootings.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told a news conference
before travelling to the area that the security forces would
find the perpetrators, fending off questions about public
anger at the failure of the government to do more to secure
In an apparent swipe at political opponents, he said the
government was cautioning "political leaders ... to desist
from destructive politics and ethnic profiling that may be
responsible for this heinous act". He did not elaborate.