According to Reuters, Somali-linked Islamists killed at least fifty people in the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni, executing men in front of their families and killing others who had gathered to watch World Cup soccer on television.
Al-Shabaab said on Monday (June 16) that its commandos launched Sunday (June 15) night's strike on Mpeketoni because Kenya had sent its forces to Somalia and accused Nairobi of assassinating Muslim scholars, a charge Kenyan officials deny.
"Kenya is now officially a war-zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril," the group said.
Mpeketoni, where shells of buildings smoldered and pools of blood clotted on the streets, is not normally a stopover for foreign visitors on Kenya's popular coast, yet the attack is likely to hurt further an already struggling tourist industry.
Western nations have in recent weeks tightened their warnings about travel to Kenya, which has been hit by a spate of recent gun attacks and bombings in Nairobi and around the main port of Mombasa, though none have been as serious as Sunday's attack.
COMMENT: It is an understatement that the Kenyan Police Service is severely outmatched by al-Shabaab, who seemingly attack Kenyan towns with impunity.
Most of the assailants were armed with guns and easily entered the video hall with no apparent presence of police.
Other witnesses said those gathering for the screenings fled just before the attackers arrived but were found in hiding places and then shot. Hotels, a bank and a police station were also attacked, leaving a trail of dead across the town.
"The wives who came to identify the bodies said the al-Shabaab fighters forced them and their children to watch as they killed the husbands."After the attack, a make-shift morgue was established.
Muiruri Kinyanjui, the Kenya Red Cross regional director for the coastal area, said the death toll was at least 50 but could rise because many residents were still unaccounted for while others had suffered serious injuries.
Kenya, which has blamed al Shabaab for the previous attacks, had said it would be on alert during the World Cup to ensure public showings of matches were kept safe.
Although the gunmen struck a range of sites, the assault is likely to heighten worries in other African states such as Nigeria, which is battling the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency, that venues hosting World Cup screenings could be vulnerable.