Nairobi – Somalia’s Islamist Shabaab militants on Thursday claimed an attack on a residential compound in the restive northeastern Kenyan town of Mandera that left six “Christians” dead, according to their Telegram account.
The statement said the attack in the early hours of Thursday was “planned… and killed Christians” in the Kenyan region which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Somali Muslims.
The attack targeted a gated residential building which mainly housed non-locals, less than a kilometre (0.6 miles) from the volatile Somalia border town of Beled Hawa.
“We have suffered yet another attack in Mandera and sadly we have lost six people,” Governor Ali Roba said in a statement.
Police chief Joseph Boinnet told AFP that there were 33 people inside the compound when the attack took place. The others escaped unharmed.
Security official Mohamud Ali Saleh said the attackers used explosives to gain access to the fortified building.
“We highly suspect the attackers are members of the Shabaab insurgent group, who have sneaked across the porous border,” he said.
“These criminal gangs are desperate to hurt innocent Kenyans since they were defeated badly and routed out of all their hideouts in the neighbouring country.”
Saleh said that security officers who were carrying out regular patrols of the border heard gunshots and explosions and quickly responded.
Several attacks in the region have seen Shabaab militants target Christians.
In November 2014 gunmen flagged down a commuter bus, separated passengers by religion and executed 28 non-Muslims.
And in a deadly attack that killed 148 people at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya in 2015, the gunmen lined up non-Muslim students for execution.
The Shabaab has fought to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2007, but turned its sights on Kenya when the army was sent into Somalia in 2011 to fight the Islamic insurgents.
Since then the militants have targeted civilians in different parts of Kenya, including a dramatic assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in which at least 67 people were killed.