Kenyan police have arrested “several” suspects in connection with the twin attacks on the coastal town of Mpeketoni in which at least 60 people were killed, officials have said.
The assault on the town of Mpeketoni late on Sunday, and a nearby village the following night left at least 60 dead, were claimed by Somalia’s al-Shabab but blamed by the president on local political networks.
“We have arrested several suspects in connection to Mpeketoni incident including the owner and driver of one the vehicles used by [the] attackers,” Kenya’s police chief David Kimaiyo said on Wednesday.
“More suspects including leaders are being interrogated.”
Despite an immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attacks from al-Shabab, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta instead blamed “local political networks” along with an “opportunist network of other criminal gangs”.
Also being held by police is “a suspect who was operating social media accounts purportedly used by al-Shabab to claim responsibility,” Kimaiyo said.
Rebels repeat claims
Meanwhile, al-Shabab on Wednesday repeated claims that they were responsible for both the attacks.
“The attack in Mpeketoni was ordered by the mujahedeen high command to retaliate for Kenya’s killing of Muslims in Somalia and Kenya. The Islamic fighters answered to that holy call,” al-Shabab’s military spokesman, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, said in a news conference broadcast by al-Shabab’s radio.
According to the spokesman, the al-Shabab attackers “controlled the area of the battle zone for 10 hours” after entering on Sunday night before withdrawing.
He also said 20 people were killed in an attack the following night in a nearby village, although Kenyan officials said only nine people were killed.
Kenyan authorities also denied reports that several women were kidnapped during the attacks.
“There were no attacks involving women, and therefore those are false reports,” Kimaiyo told the AFP news agency.
The Kenyan Red Cross, which has been collecting information on those reported missing, said it also had “no evidence” to substantiate the reports that women were kidnapped.