17 Killed in Attacks on Kenya Churches

Posted July 1st, 2012 at 11:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Kenyan police say gunmen attacked two churches in the eastern town of Garissa Sunday, killing 17 people and wounding at least 40.

Authorities say the attackers threw grenades and opened fire on worshippers.

The deadliest attack took place at the African Inland Church, where at least 10 people were killed, including two police officers. The second attack took place at a Catholic church.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Police have blamed previous attacks on sympathizers of the Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabab.

James Mwamu, vice president of the East Africa Law Society, told VOA that the time has come for Kenya to deal more “harshly” with terrorism and that it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.

“The Kenyan government needs to take the treat of al-Shabab more seriously than ever because we do not know where they are going to strike out next. And I think that Kenyans are very apprehensive when people go to churches, when they go in places to watch football, when they go into bars, they are no longer free because of these things that are happening. You never know when it is going to happen.”

He said terrorists cannot be allowed to kill innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the situation in Somalia.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia last year to help hunt down al-Shabab militants. The insurgents want to turn Somalia into a strictly Islamic state.

The White House strongly condemned Sunday's attacks and extended deepest condolences to the families of the victims. It said the perpetrators show no respect for human life and dignity and must be brought to justice.

Garissa is about 140 kilometers west of the Somali border. It is also about 80 kilometers southwest of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, which houses nearly 500,000 Somali refugees.

Friday, several gunmen at the Dadaab camp killed one Kenyan and kidnapped four foreign aid workers.