NAIROBI – The killers in the Kenyan village singled out non-Muslims, shooting them point-blank or slitting their throats, just like the previous night in an adjacent hamlet.
A Somali extremist group claimed responsibility, but Kenya’s president on Tuesday blamed local political networks for the 60 deaths.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a national address, said evidence indicates that the motive for the killing spree was to evict a community of people in order to grab the land along the coast near the Somali border. He said al-Shabab, a Somali group linked to al-Qaida, was not behind it.
But analysts expressed doubt. Matt Bryden, the former head of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia, said al-Shabab has never claimed credit for an attack it didn’t carry out.
“It has all the hallmarks of an al-Shabab attack, said Bryden, now the head of Sahan Research. “Secondly, there’s been no sign of a Kenyan group carrying out an attack on this scale or with these tactics.”
In a nearby village, residents stood on top of burned-out vehicles and erected barricades of burning tires to blockade the road in protest against the recent killings and what they claimed was the government’s failure to provide them with enough security.
Al-Shabab said Monday that such attacks would continue “as you continue to invade our lands and oppress innocent Muslims.” Al-Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, last September, killing at least 67 people in reprisal for Kenya sending its troops to Somalia.
The second night of deadly attacks against a Christian community on Kenya’s north coast seemed designed to try to inflame Christian-Muslim tensions in Kenya, religious and political leaders said.
Muslim leaders conferring inside Nairobi’s largest mosque condemned what they called savage acts and ghastly killings and said there was no justification for them.
“The continued violence risks tearing the country apart,” they said. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that some of these attacks are aimed at planting seeds of discord and animosity among Kenyans and divide the country along ethnic and religious lines.”
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said a new slate of government and security officials have been installed in Lamu in the wake of the attacks, in part because “there seems to be some inside job.”
The newer attack happened in the village of Majembeni, which is next to Mpeketoni, where four dozen Christian men were slaughtered Sunday night and Monday morning. Al-Shabab said in a radio broadcast in Somalia that its fighters killed government workers and Christians.
A county commissioner, Benson Maisori, said the attackers Tuesday night appear to have been the same group as in Mpeketoni.
“The style of killing is the same. They slit the victims throats wide open or shot them several times in the head,” he said.
Kenya has been ripped apart by ethnic violence in recent years. More than 1,000 people were killed in ethnically motivated attacks after the country’s 2007 election. Both Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have been charged at the International Criminal Court for their role in helping to instigate that bloodshed.