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Wednesday 1 October 2014

'Politicians' behind Kenya attacks

Published 17/06/2014 | 09:57

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The remains of vehicles and buildings in the Kenyan town of Mpeketoni after an attack by Somali extremists (AP Photo)

Kenya's president has blamed domestic political leaders for two nights of attacks that killed at least 60 people in coastal communities.

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In a nationally televised address, Uhuru Kenyatta said that despite claims of responsibility from al-Shabab, the Islamic extremists were not behind it.

The Somali militant group had claimed responsibility for two nights of attacks near the tourist resort island of Lamu that targeted non-Muslims.

The latest attack came last night in Majembeni village in which 10 people died. The village is next to Mpeketoni, where four dozen Christian men were killed on Sunday night and Monday morning.

Al-Shabab said the second attack killed government workers and Christians. A county commissioner, Benson Maisori, said the attackers appear to have been the same in both cases.

"The style of killing is the same. They slit the victims' throats wide open or shot them several times in the head," said Mr Maisori.

But in a surprising turn of events, Mr Kenyatta said outright that al-Shabab did not plan and execute what he termed ethnically motivated violence, but rather local political leaders.

He said police officials in Mpeketoni had advance intelligence about the attack but did not act on it. The president said some officers have been suspended and will be prosecuted.

Mr Kenyatta said some political leaders are preaching the idea that some Kenyans are less human than others. "My deputy and I will never go the route of ethnic violence," he added.

The attacks underscore the weak security around the Lamu area, which lies just south of the Somali border. Lamu once attracted swarms of foreign visitors but its tourist sector has been suffering in recent years because of the violence.

Interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said a new slate of government and security officials have been installed in Lamu, in part because "there seems to be some inside job".

Mr Ole Lenku said the problem facing the country "is elaborate and is intended to cause discord among our people".

Meanwhile, Muslim leaders conferred inside Nairobi's largest mosque. The elders from four different groups condemned what they called savage acts and ghastly killings and said there was no justification for the deaths.

The Muslims leaders warned of a potential sectarian rift.

"The continued violence risks tearing the country apart," they said. "We need to be cognisant of the fact that some of these attacks are aimed at planning seeds of discord and animosity among Kenyans and dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines."

The Muslim leaders said the government is taking "knee-jerk reactions" and harassing specific communities, a reference to Kenya's Somali population, which has suffered in a widespread crackdown in the last few months which has seen the arrests of thousands of Somalis and the deportation of dozens.

Press Association

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