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Unidentified gunmen hit hotels, petrol, police station at Kenya's coast: police

MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen attacked a coastal town in Kenya’s Lamu county and set fire to at least three hotels and a petrol station on Sunday evening, police and the Kenya Red Cross said.

Police said the attackers arrived at Mpeketoni on mainland Lamu in a van and then also attacked a police station.

“Attackers hijacked a van from Witu town which they used for the attacks. They raided Mpeketoni police station first and opened fire,” Hamaton Mwaliko, Mpeketoni area administration police chief told Reuters.

“Some hotels in the town are on fire. We don’t know how many casualties are there for now. We understand the attackers have already fled but our officers are pursuing them.”

The Interior Ministry had earlier reported on its Twitter feed the attackers had arrived in two public minibuses and started shooting at residents.

It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved and what group if any, they belonged to, and if there any casualties.

“We have reports of consistent gunfire in Lamu county which started at 8:30pm (1730 GMT). We still don’t know what exactly is happening but our officers are on the ground,” Mwanaisha Hamisi, Kenya Red Cross coordinator for the coast region told Reuters by phone.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in late 2011, after al Shabaab Islamic militants carried out a series of raids on Kenyan soil.

Kenya has seen a drop in tourist arrivals in recent months following a string of gun and grenade attacks blamed on al Shabaab or its sympathisers.

The nearby island of Lamu is a popular tourist destination in Kenya.

Al Shabaab, which has fought a bloody seven-year campaign to impose its interpretation of Islamic law inside Somalia, has said it wants to take revenge for Kenya’s deployment of troops in the Horn of Africa nation.

In May explosions in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa led Britain, the United States, France and Australia to issue warnings about travel to the east African country, and at least 400 tourists cut short their holidays and left hotels along the Indian Ocean coast.

Kenya called the alerts “unfriendly”, saying they would increase panic and play into the hands of those behind the gun and grenade assaults.

Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Eric Walsh