Gunmen killed at least four people and injured several others in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Sunday, police said.
Witnesses said gunmen went on a shooting rampage on the edge of Kenya’s second-largest city and scattered leaflets saying the attack was retribution for last month’s raid on Mpeketoni, a town about 300 km (186 miles) north of Mombasa along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline.
“Some suspects…shot at people indiscriminately and as a result, four people have been killed and several others injured,” said Robert Kitur, Mombasa County police commander. “They did not steal anything. They just shot.”
Kitur said the police were pursuing the gunmen.
Peter Musyoki, a resident in Mombasa’s Likoni area who witnessed the shooting, said two masked men toting a rifle and a pistol haphazardly shot at passersby.
“I saw two men dressed in black with a red ribbon around their heads,” he said. “They walked on foot and were just shooting carelessly at anyone they saw.”
The latest attack will further dent Kenya’s beleaguered tourist industry after a wave of militant attacks and will deepen public frustrations about poor security.
About 50 people were killed when gunmen raided Mpeketoni in Lamu County, a coastal region where about 100 people in total have died since mid-June in a series of ambushes and raids.
Somalia’s al Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks but the government, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, has suggested local politicians were behind the incidents.
Critics say the comments by Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, were political point-scoring against Raila Odinga, a Luo who lost to Kenyatta in last year’s election but has been whipping up crowds with anti-government rallies.
The leaflets distributed at Likoni, warning Odinga and his community, could further fan an already tense political atmosphere in Kenya.
“This is a revenge for our brothers who were killed in Mpeketoni and you Luos, you wont stay in peace, and you Raila if you have anything to do, just do, we are not fearing you at all,” said one of the leaflets seen by Reuters.
Many from Kenyatta’s Kikuyu community feel their kinsmen were targeted during the Mpeketoni attack.
Political allegiances in Kenya tend to follow ethnic lines and signs of inter-ethnic tensions are closely scrutinised. A disputed poll in 2007 sparked weeks of ethnic bloodletting that left more than 1,200 people dead and crippled the economy.
Several Western governments, including the United States and Britain, have issued travel warnings advising their citizens to avoid Mombasa.