Unidentified assailants killed at least seven people, including two security personnel, in an attack on a bus on Kenya ’s coast that brings the death toll in the region over the past month to 94, the Kenya Red Cross said.
The attackers targeted a bus traveling near Witu in Kenya’s Lamu county, about 420 kilometers (261 miles) southeast of the capital, Nairobi, the medical charity said in postings on Twitter. Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militia waging an insurgency against the government of neighboring Somalia, told Agence France-Presse today it carried out the assault.
Five injured people were treated at local hospitals, Kenya Red Cross said. The gunmen escaped into a nearby forest, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation newspaper reported, citing Lamu County Commissioner Njenga Miiri said by phone.
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for several attacks at the coast, including one at Mpeketoni in Lamu county in mid-June that left at least 60 people dead. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government says the violence was motivated by political and land grievances.
Kenyan security forces searching for the attackers in Boni Forest, near the border with Somalia , this week destroyed at least four camps being used by the assailants, the Daily Nation newspaper said on July 17. The security forces suspect the attackers are a band of radicalized youth trained by al-Shabaab who have returned to Kenya from fighting in Somalia after losing ground to African Union peacekeepers, it said.
Al-Shabaab has threatened to attack Kenya in retaliation for the country’s deployment of troops in Somalia, where the militia is trying to overthrow the government and establish Shariah, or Islamic law. Kenyatta has vowed to keep the troops in place until the threat of al-Shabaab is thwarted.
Tourism, Kenya’s biggest foreign-currency earner after tea, has been dented by attacks in the country, with arrivals of holidaymakers falling 18 percent to 1.4 million last year.
Yesterday, Mombasa High Court Judge Edward Mureithi urged Kenyan Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to form a special bench of criminal judges to handle cases arising from the attacks at the coast. Mureithi made the call as he granted a prosecution request to cancel bail for Dyana Salim Suleiman, the alleged driver of a van used in the attack on Mpeketoni. Suleiman has denied any involvement in the attack.
“In the interest of victims of the alleged crimes, the accused shall be held in custody for the course of the trial,” Mureithi ruled.
Mahadi Swaleh Mahadi, a Malindi-based businessman, has also denied charges brought against him on July 9 of 60 counts of murder in Mpeketoni. His bail application will be heard on July 21.
Lamu town is a United Nations’ World Heritage site and was a popular tourist destination before the attack. Kenya’s second international seaport, which is expected to serve South Sudan , Ethiopia and Uganda, is being built in Lamu.
The Mombasa High Court on July 17 gave the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions one more month to investigate Lamu Governor Issa Timamy’s alleged involvement in the attacks. Prosecutors had sought a two-month extension, citing difficulties in finding witnesses as people in Lamu continue to be displaced by violence.
Timamy, who hasn’t been charged, denies he had anything to do with the killings and “more time to investigate will not change the fact that I’m innocent,” he said.