Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) – Gunmen in Kenya attacked a busy coastal town late Sunday, opening fire from two minibuses, the army said, adding the attackers were suspected to be Islamist insurgents.
There was no immediate confirmation of casualties, but residents said the attack lasted for hours.
Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the gunmen entered the western town of Mpeketoni, a trading centre on the main coastal road, and started “shooting people around in town”.
The “assailants (are) likely to be Al-Shebab,” Chirchir said, referring to Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.
“Surveillance aircraft (are) already airborne,” looking for the attackers, he added.
The town lies on the mainland some 30 kilometres (20 miles) southwest of Lamu island, a popular tourist destination whose ancient architecture is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The shooting began around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), with gunshots reported up to four hours later.
A police station, a bank and two hotels were reportedly attacked, according to residents, although officials could not confirm the extent of the attack.
“Some buildings are on fire and we are hearing gunshots,” resident Julius Kimotho told AFP.
Benson Maisori, a senior civil servant, said “fighting is going on”.
Cafes and bars were reported to have been busy with people watching the World Cup on television.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but it was the latest in a series of attacks or bombings to hit Kenya.
The attacks are usually blamed on the Shebab or their supporters in Kenya.
Kenyan troops crossed into southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shebab, later joining the now 22,000-strong African Union force battling the Islamists.
The Shebab vowed revenge, carrying out attacks, including one on Nairobi’s Westgate mall in September 2013 in which at least 67 people were killed.