NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Seven people were killed when gunmen attacked a bus at the Kenyan coast where previous attacks had left 87 people dead, Kenya Red Cross said Saturday.
The attack Friday night occurred in an area called Corner Mbaya, which is 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the coastal town of Witu in Lamu county, the humanitarian group said. Authorities believe many of the passengers who were on the 52-seat bus traveling from Mombasa to Lamu town, fled into a nearby forest.
Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants from Somalia claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police chief David Kimaiyo issued a dusk to dawn curfew for Lamu County and declared the Boni forests and adjoining forests prohibited. The areas are believed to be the gunmens’ hideout. Those found in the forests will be arrested, Kimaiyo said. He ordered buses to travel with armed escorts.
Police officers engaged in a shootout with the gunmen attacking the bus, leading to the deaths of three police officers and four civilians, Kimaiyo said. Three civilians and one police officer were wounded in the gunfight, he said.
According to Lamu County Commissioner Miiri Njenga, gunmen used a stolen saloon car to block the road to stop the bus.
Patricia Mbuvi, who was traveling in the bus, was injured from broken glass. She said the gunmen wore masks and outfits that looked like police uniforms, and started shooting at the bus when it stopped.
Al-Shabab said the attackers were sending a message to Kenya that they cannot stop the group’s operations in coastal areas.
“The attack was carried out in response to the Kenyan government’s claim that all the areas that have recently been subject for attacks were secured after having deployed troops,” the group said.
Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out attacks on Kenyan soil to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops fighting the militants in Somalia. In September, four al-Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, killing 67 people.
The militant group has also claimed responsibility for previous attacks along the coast but the Kenyan government claims local political networks are responsible.
The recent attacks led the British government last week to expand the travel warnings for the Kenyan coast. British citizens have been asked avoid all but essential travel to Lamu county, Tana River county and Tana River itself.
Earlier travel advisories warned against travel to areas within 60 kilometers of the Kenya-Somali border, the Somali enclave known as Eastleigh in Nairobi and Mombasa island.
The government fears that tourism, a key pillar of the economy, will be affected negatively by the travel advisories issued by the U.S. and Britain following attacks.
Kenya’s opposition, known as the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy is demanding the withdrawal of the country’s troops from Somalia, saying the government is not serious about tackling al-Shabab.
Associated Press writer Abdi Guled contributed to this report from Mogadishu, Somalia
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