Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab attacked a coastal town in Kenya, killing 48 people through a series of shootings and fires. The group claimed responsibility and asserted that it would target World Cup viewings and highly populated places in Kenya, warning foreigners to stay out of the country.
The Associated Press reports that the assault on the town of Mpeketoni lasted for hours on Sunday, as militants stormed homes, hotels, bars, and a screening of a World Cup match, killing those who were not Muslim and did not speak Somali. In the cases of families, women from Christian or Swahili-speaking families were forced to watch their husbands killed by al-Shabaab extremists.
Sky News reports that three hotels, a bank, and a gas station were attacked in addition to residences, and that soccer fans were targeted in particular. “Foreigners with any regard for their safety and security should stay away from Kenya or suffer the bitter consequences of their folly. You have been forewarned!” a spokesman for al-Shabaab said in a statement taking responsibility for the attack.
The ongoing struggle between the Kenyan government and al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group with its base in Somalia, has intensified in recent months, and the Kenyan government has entered Somali airspace to attack the group’s bases in the country. In May, the group released a video threatening “Muslim teenage suicide bombers, explosions and battles” within Kenya and threatening to shift the battlefield into America.
Al-Shabaab has also been significantly more active within Somalia, imposing Sharia law in areas which it currently controls. Last week, the group stormed a market in Buale, a town southwest of Mogadishu, and arrested 100 women for not wearing niqabs, a Muslim head covering that, unlike the hijab, covers all the face except the eyes.
In addition to highlighting the singular threat from al-Shabaab, the attack recalls a series of threats from multiple terror groups in Africa that they would specifically target viewers of World Cup matches. Al-Shabaab also threatened viewers in Uganda, where the United States embassy issued a warning to any attending large viewings that they were vulnerable for attack. The embassy warned U.S. citizens to “exercise caution when attending large viewing establishments that may attract large crowds.”
In Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram threatened to attack any venue in which mass gatherings for World Cup viewing purposes were assembled, prompting the government of Nigeria to shut down advertised free viewings of Nigeria World Cup matches.
Such warnings across Africa have significantly diminished the number of attendants at bars and screenings across the continent, the Associated Press reports.