Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Relative calm has returned to the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni, southwest of Lamu, after deadly attacks claimed by the militant group al-Shabab killed more than 100 people in June, local police said.

Three months after the attacks, some residents are still bitter about the assaults and question who or what group was really responsible.  

While much has changed in the life of Mary Wanjiku in the past three months, her routine remains the same.

Feels community targeted

The restaurant owner lost her husband in the first deadly attack in June, when more than 60 people were killed. Wanjiku is still bitter and feels her community was targeted.

“You know some people are jealous of us, they don’t want to see us prosper,” Wanjiku said. “There are other houses that were not touched, especially those which belonged to other communities [indigenous people]. They attacked the houses of one community [Kikuyu community].”

Between June and July, gunmen attacked civilians and security forces in the town.

While Somalia’s al-Shabab militants have claimed responsibility for many of the assaults, high-level government officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, have suggested local politicians had a hand in some of the attacks.

Some people questioned the tactics used to carry out the killings.

Noel Kitese, a local pastor, said, “Like we get to understand the approach and the way it was done. There was element – like it was terrorism – but we can also see it’s not too much terrorism because they were selecting people, so in terrorism attacks all over the country there is no selection they just bomb people.”

The attackers are long gone, but the town is left with scars that run deep and are yet to heal.

‘All we need is peace’

But others – such as Salome Wanjiru, who lost her husband just days after giving birth to their third child – she is ready to forgive the assailants for the sake of peace.

“Here, all we need is peace, to live peacefully,” Wanjiru said. “All of us are from here. We are all Kenyans we need to love each other and live in peace.”

That peace and normalcy is far away as the town has been under curfew for the past two months, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The curfew will continue, at least until security officials said they are certain there will be no more attacks on the town and the nearby coastal area.

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