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Islamist militant group al-Shabab claims responsibility for Kenya attack

Al-Shabab militants have claimed responsibility for the attack on a Kenyan coastal city popular with tourists. Al-Qaeda's Somali affiliate declared Kenya a warzone and warned tourists against visiting the country.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility on Monday for the

mass shooting in the city of Mpeketoni

, which left at least 48 people dead, many of whom were watching the World Cup at the time of the attack.

The Islamist militants said the massacre of civilians was in retaliation for the "Kenyan government's brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya through coercion, intimidation and extrajudicial killings of Muslim scholars."

They went on to condemn "the Kenyan military's continued invasion and occupation of our Muslim lands and the massacre of innocent Muslims in Somalia." Nairobi is a major troop contributor to the African Union's intervention force in Somalia.

"To the tourists visiting Kenya we say this: Kenya is now officially a warzone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril," al-Shabab said in a news release.

Worst attack since Westgate mall

Around 50 heavily armed militants in minibuses rampaged through the coastal city of Mpeketoni late on Sunday. Mpeketoni is near the island and popular tourist resort of Lamu, a UNESCO world heritage site. The region is located 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Kenya's border with Somalia.

"The attackers were so many and were all armed with guns," Meshack Kimani told the Reuters news agency by telephone. "They entered the video hall where we were watching a World Cup match and shot indiscriminately at us."

"They targeted only men but I was lucky," Kimani said. "I escaped by hiding behind the door."

The terrorist attack was the worst in Kenya since the shooting spree at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, which left 67 people dead. Al-Shabab was also responsible for that attack.

slk/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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