NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Twenty-two people were killed in overnight attacks by gunmen on the Kenyan coast, the Kenya Red Cross said Sunday. Al-Qaida-linked militants claimed responsibility but Kenyan officials blamed local separatists.
The Saturday night attacks left 13 dead in the town of Hindi and nine dead and one person missing in the town of Gamba, in neighboring Lamu and Tana Delta counties, Kenya Red Cross chief Abbas Gulet said.
Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants from Somalia claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks — just like they did for others last month that killed 65 people. Kenya police, however, said preliminary investigations pointed to a Kenyan separatist group on the coast.
The attacks come as tensions are rising over a planned protest rally Monday in Nairobi by the opposition, which wants the government to convene national talks over security issues, the increasing cost of living, corruption and the disbandment of the electoral authority. Many fear the protests could further divide the nation along tribal lines.
About 15 gunmen raided the town of Hindi and started shooting at residents, according to the Lamu county commissioner Njenga Miiri. The assailants allegedly burned several buildings, including a church, and also attacked the Gamba police station, Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said.
The victims in Gamba included five non-Muslim inmates killed when the gunmen attacked the police station, said a senior police officer who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak with the media. Three other inmates escaped with the gunmen, according to the officer.
Grace Kaindi, a deputy inspector general of police, told reporters Sunday that preliminary investigations pointed to the separatist group Mombasa Republican Council. She showed a message allegedly left by the attackers on a blackboard at a school that called on Muslims to rise up, take back their land and kick out Christians from the coast. The message also suggested the attackers support opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
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