Gunmen kill 17 in twin attacks on Kenyan churches

Masked gunmen killed 17 people and wounded dozens in gun and grenade attacks on two churches Sunday in the Kenyan town of Garissa near the border with Somalia, officials said.

As Kenya vowed not to be deterred, Washington extended its support to the east African powerhouse and the Vatican expressed concern that attacks on Christian worshippers were spreading.

Wearing balaclavas, the attackers killed two armed police -- posted outside churches following previous attacks -- before bursting inside to target worshippers as they held prayer services.

Witnesses said bodies lay scattered on the floor inside the blood spattered buildings -- a Roman Catholic church and an Africa Inland Church.

"It is a terrible scene, you can see bodies lying in the churches," said regional police chief Leo Nyongesa.

At least 40 people were rushed to hospital, several in a critical condition, the Kenyan Red Cross said.

The Red Cross, which put the death toll at 17, flew the three most critically injured victims by air ambulance to the capital Nairobi.

Three children were reported to be among the dead.

"It is a horrible sight to see," said Hussein Abdi, a resident of Garissa, a garrison town populated mainly by Muslim ethnic Somalis and located some 140 kilometres (85 miles) from the border.

Condemning the attacks as a "horrible and very worrying act", the Vatican deplored that "among terrorist groups, attacks on Christians gathered on Sunday in their place of worship has become a method, believed to be particularly efficient, of spreading hatred and fear," spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Nigeria has suffered a string of almost weekly attacks on church services in recent months in which dozens of faithful have been 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," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Canada also condemned the "vicious and cowardly" church attacks.

Kenya has suffered a spate of gun, grenade and bomb attacks since sending troops into southern Somalia last October to target Shebab rebels fighting to overthrow the weak UN-backed government in the Horn of Africa state.

Later, the pro-Shebab Twitter site Al-Kataib boasted of a "successful operation in Garissa" but did not specifically claim responsibility. Nairobi has blamed previous assaults on the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab.

Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said Sunday that the nation "will not be intimidated by such cowardly acts" and urged Kenyans to "exercise religious tolerance."

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims condemned the attacks, saying that "all places of worship must be respected."

"We want to send our condolences, and we are sad that no arrests have been made yet," said chairman Abdulghafur El-Busaidy.

Police said up to seven men had carried out the attacks which came two days after a gunman killed a Kenyan driver and abducted four foreign aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camp, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the northeast.

Last week a grenade blast in a bar in Kenya's main port of Mombasa killed three people, a day after the US embassy warned of the threat of attack.

Search efforts continued for the abducted aid workers, two men and two women who work with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and who come from Canada, Norway, Pakistan and the Philippines, according to police.

Attacks and cross-border raids in the region blamed on the Shebab, including the kidnapping in October of two Spaniards working for Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), were key to Kenya's decision to invade Somalia.

The Shebab still control large parts of southern Somalia, despite African Union troops, government forces and Ethiopian soldiers wresting control of several key bases from the insurgents.

Since the 1991 ouster of then president Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia has been governed by ruthless warlords, rival militia groups, pirate gangs and Islamist fighters, each controlling their own limited fiefdoms.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled to Kenya as well as other neighbouring nations since the collapse of a formal government two decades ago, while crippling drought and famine racked the lawless nation last year.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options