16 June 2014
Last updated at 12:04
At least 48 people have died after unidentified gunmen attacked hotels and a police station in a Kenyan coastal town, officials say.
Witnesses in Mpeketoni said gun battles lasted for several hours and reported seeing buildings set on fire.
The town is on the mainland near Lamu island, a well-known tourist resort.
Kenya has suffered numerous militant attacks since 2011 when its forces entered neighbouring Somalia to combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group.
This is the most deadly attack in Kenya since at least 67 people were killed during a siege at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre last September carried out by al-Shabab.
Gunmen rampaged through the town for about five hours
Hotels, restaurants and the police station were attacked
Only locals were killed in the shooting spree
Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the attackers were “likely to be al-Shabab, but the group has not yet commented.
Other unconfirmed reports said the attack was linked to a land dispute between rival communities in the remote area.
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I heard them shouting in Somali as they fired around. I lost two of my brothers, and I escaped”
The BBC’s Yusuf Dayo in Nairobi says the attack started at 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT) on Sunday as locals were watching a football World Cup match on television.
Local residents told the BBC the gunmen hijacked a van and used it to attack various locations across Mpeketoni, which tourists travelling by road pass through before crossing to Lamu.
Witnesses said gunmen, who had their faces covered, threw explosives into the local police station before entering and stealing weapons.
Kenya has been on high alert recently following warnings that al-Shabab was planning more attacks.
Timeline of Somali raids in Kenya
September 2011: UK national Judith Tebbutt kidnapped and her husband David killed in raid on Kiwayu island, north of Lamu. She was released six months later by a pirate gang
October 2011: Kenya sends troops into Somalia following Tebbutt’s kidnapping and cross-border raids by al-Shabab; Al-Shabab warns of revenge attacks
Since then, numerous attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and north-eastern region of Kenya, inhabited by ethnic Somalis
September 2013: At least 67 people killed after al-Shabab militants take control of Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
May 2014: UK issues travel advisory, warning of increased risk of terror attack in Nairobi and coastal areas – UK tourists evacuated
June 2014: At least 48 people killed in raid on Mpeketoni
Mpeketoni is on the mainland near the tourist resort of Lamu
The police say Islamist militant group al-Shabab carried out the attack
Police say they are searching for the attackers
The US and UK have issued advisories to their nationals to keep away from parts of the Kenyan coast.
Sunday’s attack comes days after the UK government closed its consulate in the port city of Mombasa, citing heightened security threats.
District deputy commissioner Benson Maisori said several buildings in Mpeketoni had been burned down, including hotels, restaurants, banks and government offices, AFP news agency reports.
Bozo Jenje, a journalist in Mombasa, told the BBC that residents had reported seeing bodies scattered across roads in the town.
Local resident John Waweru, 28, said two of his brothers had been killed.
“The attackers came in around 9pm. I heard them shouting in Somali as they fired around. I lost two of my brothers, and I escaped. I ran and locked up myself in a house,” he told AFP.
Local police chief Hamaton Mwaliko told Reuters news agency the gunmen had also raided the police station.
“We understand the attackers have already fled but our officers are pursuing them,” Mr Mwaliko added.
Major Chirchir said surveillance aircraft had been dispatched to the region to help with the security operation.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has summoned Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku and police chief David Kimaiyo to discuss the security situation, the BBC’s Caroline Karobia reports from Nairobi.
Questions are being asked about how gunmen could raid a town for about five hours without an adequate response from the security forces, she says.
The town is about 54km (33 miles) from Lamu island, a popular tourist destination with ancient architecture that is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.
UK national Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped by gunmen in September 2011 from the remote resort of Kiwayu, north-east of Lamu island.
The gang also shot dead her 58-year-old husband, David Tebbutt.
Mrs Tebbutt was released six months later after a ransom was paid to pirates holding her captive in Somalia.
Are you in Mpeketoni? Have you been affected by the recent activities? You can email [email protected] using the title ‘Mpeketoni’.
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