Witnesses recount night of terror, claim ‘white man’ was commander

A police officer keeps vigil near burnt vehicles at Mpeketoni police station.

Lamu, Kenya: Intriguing and conspiratorial accounts have emerged from local residents caught up in Sunday’s Mpeketoni attack with some witnesses claiming a masked white man commanded the attackers.

Witnesses also reported seeing about 50 heavily armed gunmen with flags associated with Al Shabaab.

Some witnesses allege that police fled with them into bushes where they stayed for hours as heavy explosions shook the town. The Standard crew saw the body of a police officer in uniform in the bush indicating the attackers could have pursued victims into the thickets to finish them off.

The alleged white man and his henchmen were masked but his distinctive pale white skin stood out from his exposed hands, neck and eyes in the street lighting. He allegedly wielded a bazooka.

“We have reports that one of the attackers was a white man. Several eyewitnesses we have interviewed say they saw the white man,” said Lamu County MP Shakilla Abdalla, who spoke to The Standard on phone from Mpeketoni. But the eyewitnesses did not say what language the alleged commander spoke except alleging he appeared to be the one commanding the operation.

Some residents claimed that they had supplied information to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) over an impending attack but the County Deputy Governor Eric Mugo, who lives in Mpeketoni, said that he was not aware of such reports.

Shariff Mrenge, a witness, told The Standard yesterday that he saw about 50 heavily armed youths with flags associated with Al Shaabab shooting indiscriminately. He claims he was in his house when the attack began and was able to pick out images clearly before electricity was knocked out when the attackers blew up power lines.

The Standard counted up to 12 bodies including six that had injuries of sharp cuts near Kibaoni, along Mombasa Lamu road about 10 kilometres from Mpeketoni. The six badly mutilated bodies include that of a police officer.

Political leaders

“When I heard the first shot I went to the rooftop where I saw the men with black Al Shaabab flags. They put people together and started shooting at them while chanting Allah Wakbar (God is great),” said Mrenge.

He said the attackers told the families of the victims that “tell your father to remove soldiers from Somali.”

Other witnesses said the attackers spoke with a Somali accent but local political leaders have said they have information that some of the attackers were not Somali.

“The initial information we have is that all the attackers were all of Somali origin but it has since emerged that they were mixed with non-Somali,” said Mugo.

He said that the heavily armed gang raided the area for four hours moving door to door to pull out men who they butchered in front of their wives and children.

The deputy governor said that the attackers were between 40 and 50 and were armed with various weapons including AK47 rifles.

Yesterday helicopters from Kenya Police and KDF were patrolling the area after it emerged that the attackers were on foot after they burnt the vehicles they used.

Mugo said some of the installation that were attacked include Mpeketoni police station, a patrol state and power transmitters.

Abdhalla said the attackers destroyed over 30 motor vehicles.