Nairobi: Gunmen have massacred at least 36 quarry workers in a fresh attack in Kenya's northeast, police and the Red Cross said today, the latest in a series of strikes in the troubled region bordering war-torn Somalia.
The attackers sprayed gunfire at tents where the workers were sleeping in the early hours of this morning near the town of Mandera, where Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab and other militia have carried out a string of raids, Kenyan media said.
The gunmen then separated non-Muslims from the other workers, beheaded several and executed the rest with a bullet to the head, police sources and media reports said, a pattern of attack similar to the killing of 28 people on a bus in the same region last month.
The quarry killings follow a separate attack last night in the town of Wajir -- which like Mandera is close to the dangerous border with war-torn Somalia -- which left one person dead and 12 wounded when gunmen hurled grenades and fired into a bar.
"Our team is on the ground undertaking assessments of the attack," the Kenya Red Cross said today. Police spokesman Zipporah Mboroki confirmed the attacks but said the force would provide exact tolls of those killed later.
However, a senior police official said 36 people had been killed and there were fears others may have been abducted. "We have lost 36 people, but there are others missing," said the police official, who asked not to be named. "We don't know whether they were taken by the attackers."
The quarry attack, some 15 kilometres from the remote town of Mandera, is close to where Islamists last month executed 28 non-Muslims who were grabbed from a bus. The Shehab said the bus attack was carried out in revenge for police raids on mosques in Kenya's key port of Mombasa.
Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to attack the Shebab. Kenyan forces have since joined an African Union force battling the Islamists. No one has so far claimed responsibility for either of the attacks overnight Monday to today.
Several key unions including for civil servants have warned members to leave the restive northeast until the government can ensure their safety. Professionals working in the largely Muslim and ethnic Somali northeastern regions often come from further south in
Kenya, where Christians make up about 80 percent of the population.
Those working in the quarry attacked today were also reported to have been from outside the region.