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Shabaab claim Cup massacre in Kenya

MPEKETONI, Kenya, June 16, (RTRS): 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 soccer on television. The al Shabaab group said on Monday that its commandos launched Sunday night’s strike on Mpeketoni because Kenya had sent its forces to Somalia and accused Nairobi of assassinating Muslim scholars, a charge Kenyan officials have denied. “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 dead.

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 industry. 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 Sunday’s. “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. 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 more.

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