26 June 2014

Kenyan Police Arrest Lamu Governor Over Coastal Attack

Kenyan police have arrested a county governor over a gun attack in his administrative area that killed some 65 people, officials say. The violence was initially blamed on al Shabab insurgents from neighboring Somalia.

On Thursday, police confirmed that they had arrested Governor Issa Timamy in connection with killings in the coastal town of Mpeketoni and a nearby village.

Timamy was arrested in connection with the the succession of deadly shootings in Lamu County, which were initially blamed on the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabab, officials said.

"The governor is in custody," said Kenya's Criminal Investigations Department chief, Ndegwa Muhoro. "There are various charges lined up for him that are related to the attacks," he said.

Despite the original suspicion that al Shabab was responsible for the violence - in which Christians appeared to be specifically targeted - President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed "local political networks", along with an "opportunist network of other criminal gangs."

'Selective victimization'

The accusations have exacerbated existing tensions between Kenyatta's government and the opposition. The leader of the United Democratic Forum (UDF), of which Timamy is a member, criticized the arrest as "selective victimization."

Police also said they had arrested 13 members of the outlawed separatist movement the Mombasa Republican Council on Wednesday. The group is accused of planning "ethnic cleansing attacks" similar to the Mpeketoni killings.

Survivors of the Mpeketoni attacks, which took place over two consecutive nights, reported that the gunmen involved had been speaking Somali and carrying al Shabab flags. The attackers executed non-Muslims, claiming their actions were revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia, where al Shabab is engaged in an ongoing insurgency.

Following the attacks, Kenya's security forces killed five suspects and retrieved AK-47 asssault rifles as well as ammunition. Three more people were also charged, including a suspect who was accused of having fake al Shabab social network accounts.

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