Attacks in Kenya

Members of al Shabaab ride in a pick-up truck outside Somalia's capital Mogadishu

Members of al-Shabaab riding in a pickup truck in Somalia.

Earlier this week, at least 18 people have been killed in new attacks in Kenya’s coastal county of Lamu, the same area where 60 were massacred last month.  A spokesman for Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab rebels claims responsibility for the attack.  According to the Red Cross, nine people died and one was missing around Gamba, and four people were killed in Hindi, located near Lamu island.  The attacks occurred late on Saturday night.  Police say that unidentified gunmen torched several houses and attacked the Gamba police station, freeing a suspect held in connection with the previous month’s attacks.

An AFP reporter in Hindi says that all of the dead were men, apart from a teenage boy who was shot as he tried to run away.  The attackers left messages scribbled in Swahili and broken English on a blackboard taken from a school.  One such message read, “You invade Muslim country and you want to stay in peace”.  Local Elizabeth Opindo said that she spoke to the attackers, who set fire to her home but left her alive, claiming that they did not kill women.  There were about 10 attackers, who spoke a mix of English, Swahili and Somali, all common languages in Kenya.  They claimed to be attacking because the lands of Muslims were being taken.  In a statement issued hours after the violence.

Al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, says that the attackers were able to safely return to their base, having just killed 10 people.  They also claimed responsibility for last month’s attack at Mpeketoni, which they insisted was in retaliation for Kenya’s military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force supporting the country’s fragile and internationally-backed government.  Survivors of the Mpeketoni massacre and a similar attack the next night nearby reported that gunmen speaking Somali and carrying al-Shabaab flags killed non-Muslims and said that their actions were revenge for Kenya’s presence in Somalia.  While Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, denied al-Shabaab’s involvement in the attacks, it seems interesting that the attacks were focused on Mpeketoni, since the town is a mainly Christian settlement in the mostly Muslim coastal region.

The Police have arrested alleged separatists from the Mombasa Republican Council, which campaigns for independence of Kenya’s coastal region, as well as the governor of Lamu county, who is an opposition politician.  This unrest has hurt Kenya’s tourism industry, which is a key foreign currency earner and a massive employer for the country, since this is typically one of the busiest times of the year for tourism.  Lamu Island itself is a well-known tourist destination, and its ancient architecture is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Violence in Ukraine Escalates


Militants operating in Donetsk

While there had been plenty of drama in Ukraine earlier in the year, it looked like things had died down.  While there had been conflicts between the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian rebels, they were somewhat farcical; angry civilians blocked army tanks, and rebels were constantly capturing army units.  The two sides declared a ceasefire, and the conflict’s intensity seemed to abate.  Last week, however, the Ukrainian government discontinued its ceasefire with the rebels, and marched into the east.  Now, it seems like the Ukrainian army is finally earning itself some victories.

This past weekend on Saturday, Ukraine retook Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, which had been under the control of pro-Russian rebels for weeks.  The next day, the Ukrainian army took control of Druzhkova and Artyomovsk.  They seem to be closing in on the strategic cities of Lugansk and Donestk, which remain under rebel control.  According to Ukrainian officials, their forces are encircling Donetsk, the capital of a self-declared pro-Russian republic, ahead of what could be a major turning point in the crisis.  The looming confrontation has been religiously chronicled on social media, which gives viewers an up-close and personal view of the military buildup.  YouTube is filled with videos of rockets and tanks.  As the Ukrainian Army continues its advance on Donetsk, rebels are working to stall the army’s advancement.  On Sunday, three of the bridges on the way into Donetsk were blown up.  Eyewitness reports describe men dressed in camouflage, frequently associated with the pro-Russian rebels, leaving the scene after a bridge explosion in an outlying village.

A video posted on Sunday shows Dymytro Yaros, the leader of the right-wing Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector, giving a pep talk to members of his group.  After the fighting in the east began, many Right Sector members joined the Ukrainian National Guard, which has in turn supported the Ukrainian army in its offensive.  However, it’s not clear if Right Sector was actually that all important to the recent Ukrainian successes.  In the video, Yarosh speaks with a group of armed men with Right Sector patches sewn onto their uniforms.  He discusses the lack of ammunition that he and his team were given, and adds that they will be used as a reconnaissance force in the upcoming operation.  The Ukrainian army is also fighting rebels in Lugansk, and the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that rebels from the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” are currently exchanging fire with Ukrainian forces outside the city.