Suspected Islamist militants have killed at least 15 people – and abducted 12 women – in an overnight raid on a Kenyan coastal area.
The attack comes just 24 hours after a separate raid in a nearby town left 53 dead.
The bodies of 15 people were discovered among the remains of torched houses in Majembeni and neighboring Poromoko, which are on the Kenyan coast between Mombasa and the Somali border.
Al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the overnight attack on their radio station Andalus, but said they had in fact murdered 20 people.
This afternoon it also emerged that 12 women had been taken, according to the BBC.
The alleged kidnappings are an echo of Boko Haram’s devastating raids in Nigeria earlier this year, which led to 270 schoolgirls being taken from their homes.
But in a surprising turn of events, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta later said that despite al-Shabaab’s claims, ‘domestic political leaders’ were behind the massacres, not Islamic extremists.
Majembeni – the area in which the 15 bodies were discovered – is close to the village of Mpeketoni, where 53 people were brutally killed in a raid on Sunday while they watched the World Cup.
Local residents said militants also entered a third village, Mapenya, overnight, burning several homes to the ground, according to Kenya’s Standard Digital.
One witness said armed men went door to door hours before dawn in Majembeni and the neighbouring Poromoko village, ordered people outside and made them recite the Islamic creed.
He said he did not see what happened to those that failed the test, but assumed they had been beaten or killed.
Police are continuing to search Majembeni and Poromoko for bodies and the death toll is expected to rise over the coming hours.
However, in a nationally televised address this afternoon, Kenya’s president dismissed widely held belief that Islamist militants were behind the attacks, instead blaming ‘domestic political leaders’.
His surprising allegations come despite witness testimonies to the contrary, and analysis by terror experts who say the method of killing is very much in the al-Shabaab style.
Mr Kenyatta blamed the attacks instead on ethnically-motivated violence inspired by local political leaders who are preaching the idea that some Kenyans are ‘less human’ than others.