MOMBASA (Reuters) - Kenya’s security forces have shot dead five people suspected of involvement in attacks on the coast this week that killed about 65 people, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist militant group, the usual suspects in such attacks, claimed responsibility for this week’s assaults that were 24 hours apart on the town of Mpeketoni and a nearby village. Both areas are near the coast in Lamu County.
President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed the group’s claim and accused his political rivals of being behind the attacks, saying they wanted to stoke ethnic tensions. The opposition swiftly denied the charge, which risks deepening political divisions.
“Five suspected attackers shot dead while escaping, three AK-47 guns and several ammunitions recovered,” the Interior Ministry said on Twitter, locating the incident in Lamu County.
A Kenyan army source, who asked not to be named, confirmed five suspects were killed in a forested area during a combined operation involving the army and other security forces.
Kenya has faced a spate of gun and grenade attacks in recent months. The killings in Mpeketoni were the worst since al Shabaab gunmen stormed into Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in September, leaving 67 people dead.
The government has faced mounting public anger at the rising insecurity and accusations it failed to do enough to protect them. Officials insist they are unfairly blamed for attacks that get through but not credited for many foiled plots.
In the main port city of Mombasa on Thursday, police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration about poor security. Eight people were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly. They were released on bail.
The protest was organised by 27 rights groups.
“We have not done anything wrong by holding peaceful demonstrations for the sake of our country and we will still have them, until the government restores security in the country,” Phyllis Mwema, one of the organisers, told Reuters.
Mwema said police had been properly notified of the protest, which had been arranged to take place before the Mpeketoni attacks. Police said they were informed but had not given approval for fear it could be targeted by “criminals”.
Police intervened to prevent protesters reaching a regional administrative offices.
“We are trying to ensure that we don’t create situations that give evil-minded people an easy opportunity to execute crime,” Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa said, explaining the decision not to approve the protest.
Additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Tom Heneghan