, MOMBASA, July 21 – Kenyan police said Monday they were hunting gunmen who killed four people in an apparent ethnic revenge attack and dropped leaflets demanding minorities leave the port city of Mombasa.
“We are looking for them, we don’t know who the attackers are and that is why we are urging the public to work closely with us,” Mombasa police chief Robert Kitur said.
Kitur said four people were killed when unknown gunmen on motorbikes sprayed bullets into crowds late Sunday in the Soweto district of Mombasa’s Likoni suburb, although local government officials confirmed only three dead.
“We are also investigating the source of leaflets circulated in the area,” he added.
The leaflets, which said the shooting was carried out in retaliation for attacks last month, appear to be a move to inflame ethnic tensions further on Kenya’s already restive coast.
Kenya faces multiple challenges, including an external Islamist threat, homegrown terrorism, religious, ethnic and tribal tensions, and bitter, long-running land disputes.
The leaflets said the attackers were targeting people from the Luo community, who come from Kenya’s western region.
At least 94 people have been killed in a series of raids since mid-June around Kenya’s Lamu coastal district, about 300 kilometres north of Mombasa, which have largely targeted the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic group, who come from the highlands of central Kenya.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab have previously claimed responsibility for a string of shootings on Kenya’s Muslim-majority coast, in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
But they denied they were to blame for the shooting late Sunday.
“We are not aware of what happened in Mombasa and we are not involved,” Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.
“But we support the right of the people there to defend themselves, and anything harmful to Nairobi regime is very much welcome.”
Mombasa has been the scene of worsening unrest in recent months with a string of shootings and bombings blamed on the Shabaab or local supporters.