Shabab extremists from neighboring Somalia beheaded nine civilians in an early-morning attack on a village in the southeast, Kenyan officials said Saturday, as concerns grew that the group had taken up a bloody new strategy.
The attack occurred in Jima village in Lamu County, said James Ole Serian, who leads a task force of security agencies combating Shabab.
Beheadings by Shabab have been rare in Kenya, where the extremist group has carried out dozens of deadly attacks over the years.
The Al Qaeda-linked Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops in 2011 to Somalia to fight the group, which last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.
Saturday’s attack occurred in the Pandaguo area, where Shabab fighters engaged security agencies in a daylong battle three days ago.
A police report says about 15 Shabab fighters attacked Jima village Saturday and seized men, killing them with knives.
In recent months, Shabab also has increased attacks with homemade bombs, killing at least 46 in Lamu and Mandera counties.
The increase in attacks presents a huge problem for Kenya’s security agencies ahead of the Aug. 8 presidential election, said security analyst and former U.S. Marine Andrew Franklin. On election day, security agencies will be strained while attempting to stop any possible violence, and Shabab could take advantage, he said.
Kenya is among five countries contributing troops to an African Union force that is bolstering Somalia’s fragile central government against Shabab’s insurgency. Of the troop-contributing countries, Kenya has borne the brunt of retaliatory attacks from Shabab.