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48 killed in attack on coastal town in Kenya; Somali group blamed

Assailants in a Kenyan town attack a police station, a bank and hotels, killing 27, including a policeman.
The Kenya National Disaster Operation Center blames the attack on the Shabab, a Somali militant group.

At least 48 people were killed Sunday in an attack on a police station and several hotels on Kenya's coast, according to the Abbas Gullet, secretary general for the Kenya Red Cross.

David Kimaiyo, Kenya's top police chief, said a group of unknown gunmen arrived by van Sunday night in Mpeketoni, a town on mainland Kenya near Lamu, an island popular with tourists.

The assailants attacked a police station, a bank and two hotels, Kimaiyo said. At least one police officer was among the dead, he said.

"Our officers are still looking for more bodies and this number could rise," said Kimaiyo, who put the death toll at 27. "It is difficult to account for the local residents for now because many of them ran to hide in the forest to escape the attackers."

Kimaiyo said no arrests had been made and said he did not know the identity or motivations of the assailants.

The Twitter account for the Kenya National Disaster Operation Center, which sent emergency personnel to Mpeketoni, blamed the Shabab, the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group.

The Shabab and its sympathizers are behind string of attacks in Kenya, including October's deadly siege at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. The attacks, including some in the coastal resort town of Mombasa, about 120 miles south of Mpeketoni, have dealt a significant blow to Kenya's tourism economy, officials say.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 after the group carried out several raids in Kenya.

Times special correspondent Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

12:02 a.m.: This story was updated to include the latest death toll of 48. A previous version put the number killed at 34.

11:22 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a death toll tallied by the Kenya Red Cross. An earlier version of the story citing Kenyan police put the death toll at 27.

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