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Islamist militants suspected in deadly attack in Kenya coastal town

Dozens of people have been killed in an attack attributed to Islamist extremists in a small Kenyan coastal town. This was just the latest in a series of attacks to hit the African country in recent months.

At least 48 people were killed after extremists wielding automatic weapons struck in the town of Mpeketoni on Sunday evening.

"The situation is not good for now. The toll could be more than the 47 bodies that we have collected," The Standard newspaper quoted Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo as saying. He later revised the death total upwards to 48.

"Two Nissan matatus (minibuses) with unknown occupants entered Mpeketoni and started shooting people in and around town," Kenya's Interior Ministry said via the micro-blogging website Twitter on Sunday.

Witnesses said the attackers first targeted a police station before randomly opening fire on civilians, many of which had been watching a World Cup soccer game at local bars and hotels.

The district deputy commissioner, Benson Maisori, said several buildings, including government offices, banks, hotels and restaurants had been burned down.

There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the Shebab flag. They were shouting in Somali and shouting "Allahu Akbar," which translates from Arabic as "God is great."

Islamist militants suspected

Inspector General Kimaiyo said that while the case was still under investigation, police suspected Islamist militants from neighboring Somalia of being behind the attack.

"We suspect the involvement of al-Shebab in this attack. We are appealing for calm as we do our best to search for the attackers. It is a very unfortunate incident," Kimaiyo told the AFP news agency.

"Our officers are still combing the area," he added.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, al-Shebab militants have vowed to carry out attacks in revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia.

Mpeketoni is located near the popular tourist resort of Lamu, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Kenya's border with Somalia.

pfd/kms ( AP, AFP, dpa)

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