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Militants Attack Kenyan Town, Leaving Dozens Of People Dead

Kenya saw another deadly attack when armed militants stormed a small coastal town Sunday night, leaving at least 48 people dead.

Kenya's Standard Digital reports that police warned the death toll could climb higher. The Standard adds:

"Mpeketoni is now like a ghost town as many residents are missing and there is more gunfire being witnessed. Witnesses said many people were held hostage for hours in the attack that started at about 8 pm and ran for almost four hours.

"The area is a tourist hub and the attack is a blow in the already struggling sector. Today's toll is the highest since 67 people were killed in an attack in September on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall. That raid was claimed by Al Shabaab, which said it want to force Kenya to withdraw troops from Somalia. Kenya has said it won't."

The Associated Press reports that the Kenyan government is blaming al-Shabab, Somalia's al-Qaida-linked terror group. The news service spoke to a police commander who said the attack happened as residents of the town were watching the World Cup.

"The gunmen pulled the men aside and ordered the women to watch as they killed them," the AP reports. "The attackers told the women that that's what Kenyan troops are doing to men inside Somalia."

Video aired by the BBC showed charred vehicles and homes. The reporter says the government is having issues coming up with an accurate death toll because as the attack occurred, residents fled into the bushes. Many people are still unaccounted for, but it is unclear whether they're alive.

Kenya has seen a spate of attacks since it sent troops into Somalia in October of 2011.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.