Masked assailants have raided two churches in Kenya, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 60. US officials have condemned the "heinous" attacks.
The gunmen simultaneously attacked two churches on Sunday in Garissa, a northern Kenyan town that has been used as a base for operations against al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.
The attacks took place during prayer services, with the assailants firing guns and throwing grenades. Two on-duty policemen were also killed.
"The perpetrators of these attacks have shown no respect for human life and dignity, and must be brought to justice for these heinous acts," the White House said, referring to this and similar attacks in recent days.
The country has suffered a recent spate of gun and bombing attacks since Kenya sent troops into southern Somalia last October. The armed forces there are targeting al-Shabab rebels who have been fighting to overthrow the Somali government.
Whilst there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Garissa, police suspect al-Shabab sympathizers or bandits, but they have not yet pointed a definitive finger at anyone. Al-Shabab has refused to comment on the events.
The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims responded by condemning the attack and sending condolences to the victims' families.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States "strongly condemned" the attacks, saying that the nation needs "peace and stability" during this period of transition. Kenya is set to hold an election next March.
"We support those who recognize Kenya's ethnic and religious diversity as one of the country's greatest strengths," the White House said.
Canada also condemned the "vicious and cowardly" church attacks, with Foreign Minister John Baird saying he was "deeply saddened" to hear about the deaths. He pledged his country's "solidarity with the Kenyan people."
tm/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)