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Kenyan president shifts fault for attacks

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By The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 8:15 p.m.
 

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday that two nights of deadly attacks on the nation's coast were not the work of Somali militants, who have claimed responsibility for the violence. Instead, Kenyatta blamed local leaders, whom he accused of seeking to “divide” the country.

“This was not an al-Shabab terrorist attack,” Kenyatta said in a televised address a day after armed militants struck the coast for the second night in a row, killing at least 15 people in the village of Poromoko.

The president did not go into detail or name suspects, but he blamed local leaders for what he called “well-planned, orchestrated and politically motivated violence.”

The statement was made despite al-Shabab's claim of responsibility for the attacks, which began on Sunday night when militants laid siege to the town of Mpeketoni, killing 48 people.

On Monday, the group released a statement saying its fighters burned a police station, bank, hotels and other buildings in revenge for the killings of several clerics in the Kenya city of Mombasa and the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia. The group declared Kenya a “war zone” and warned tourists to stay home.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the group took responsibility for the attack in Poromoko and vowed that the violence would continue.

Witnesses to both incidents said the attackers appeared to be targeting victims based on religion.

But the area where the violence took place, near the resort town of Lamu, has a history of ethnic tensions, locals say. The towns that were attacked are populated primarily by Kikuyus, the same ethnic group to which Kenyatta belongs.

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