The number of those killed in attacks in Lamu and Tana River on Saturday jumped to 29, the interior ministry said, after more bodies were found in Gamba, Tana River and Hindi area in Lamu.
Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for the interior ministry said the death toll in Gamba had hit 20 while that at Hindi stood at 9, and said there was a possibility that the number could rise further.
Witnesses said the attackers raided Gamba police station and rescued a suspect said to be the ring leader in attacks that killed 65 people in Mpeketoni last month, before they went on a deadly killing spree that police have linked to local land grievances.
“They went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately,” said Abdallah Shahasi, a local chief in Hindi area, which lies near the old trading port of Lamu and Mpeketoni town.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told sections of the international media in Mogadishu that the Somali group was behind both attacks on Saturday night. It had also said it was responsible for the June raids in Lamu County, around Mpeketoni.
But President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed al Shabaab’s claim last month and blamed local politicians, stoking an already fierce row with the opposition, which denied any role.
The Saturday raids will hammer an already beleaguered tourist industry that has been hit by a wave of militant attacks and will deepen public frustrations about poor security in Kenya a day before the much publicized Saba Saba rally planned for the capital, Nairobi.
ATTACKS LINKED TO THE MRC.
At a news conference in Nairobi, police deputy inspector general Grace Kaindi said a blackboard, ripped out of a school, was found at a junction near Hindi with scrawling that could implicate the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC).
“At first we thought it was al Shabaab, but now it is turning out that it is MRC as they have put it there clearly,” she said, adding other scribbled phrases seemed to back CORD leader Raila Odinga.
Slogans included “MRC – You are sleeping,” “Muslims your land is being grabbed”, “Raila is adequate” and “Uhuru down”.
The MRC swiftly denied any role saying government was using them as a scapegoat.
“We expected them to say it is us, like they have always said in the past, but we have nothing to do with the attacks. Government should stop using us as a scapegoat every time their unpreparedness to deal with insecurity in the country is exposed,” Randu Nzai Ruwa, the MRC Secretary General, told Baraka FM
Al Shabaab, which attacked Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last year killing 67 people, said it had broken into the police station at Gamba and freed suspects from the cells.
A police source corroborated this account, saying the numbers for those released was still being checked.
“They killed some of our colleagues and freed detainees,” the source told Baraka FM. “Some of those freed were linked to the Mpeketoni attacks two weeks ago.”
Police said attackers hit government offices and burnt a church in Hindi. Lamu County police chief Ephantus Kariuki said victims were shot in the head with their hands bound from behind.
“It seems the attacks are more associated with land disputes and resources,” he said.
Deputy president William Ruto who was touring Coast region said those involved in the attacks had to be arrested, dead or alive.
“In the next 48 hours, those criminals must be in police custody to account for their actions,” Ruto said.
In a separate criminal incident in Mombasa, a Russian woman tourist who was with two companions was killed by a gang, which robbed them, police said.
The three were attacked, robbed and shot at Kibokoni in Mombasa by assailants who police said were criminals. One of the tourists died while receiving treatment at the Mombasa hospital.