At least 14 people were killed Tuesday when Islamist militants raided a northern Kenyan town on the border with war-torn Somalia, officials said.
Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamist group said on Tuesday it was behind the gun attack in the northeastern Kenyan town of Mandera, a raid it said was part of its campaign against Kenya.
“We are behind the Mandera attack. We killed over 10 Kenyan Christians,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters. “This is part of our ongoing operations against Kenya.”
The Somali-led Shabab militants have carried out a string of attacks in the region, highlighting the insecurity that plagues parts of the country.
The Tuesday morning raid comes a little more than two weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama is due to make his first visit to Kenya, where his father was born, since taking office.
The attack occurred at an area called Soko Mbuzi, a livestock market just outside the town of Mandera in Kenya’s far northeastern region, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia.
“People were sleeping when the attack happened, they just came and hurled explosives in the houses,” said Mandera County Commissioner Alex Ole Nkoyo, confirming 14 people had been killed in the attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“These were Al-Shabab from the nature of the attack. They used explosives and guns,” he said.
Nkoyo said those attacked mainly worked in a nearby quarry.
Kenya police chief Joseph Boinnet also blamed Shabab for the attack. “I can confirm a Shabab attack in Mandera early this morning,” he said on Twitter.
Kenya Red Cross said it had taken 11 wounded to hospital, and had sent a medical airplane to evacuate the critically injured to the capital Nairobi.
Under pressure in Somalia where it has for years been fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government, the al-Qaeda-linked Shabab is now increasingly targeting Kenya.
The Islamic militants have stepped up their attacks during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan.
In the group’s deadliest attack to date, four gunmen killed 148 people, mostly students, at a university in the Kenyan town of Garissa in early April.
In late 2014 they carried out two attacks on a bus and a quarry close to the town of Mandera, killing at least 62 non-Muslims after separating people according to religion.
In 2013, four Shabab gunmen killed at least 67 people in an assault on the Westgate mall in the capital Nairobi.SHOW MORE