Kenya, Tanzania attacks hit tourism

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iol news pic AFR125_KENYA-ATTACKS-_0706_11 REUTERS Policemen recover the slain body of a man killed when gunmen attacked Hindi village, near Kenya's coastal town of Lamu. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

Arusha, Tanzania - Tanzania and Kenya were targeted in separate attacks in key tourist sites in the east African nations, police said Tuesday, the latest in a series of bombings and gun battles scaring off foreign visitors.

While the attacks - including a restaurant bomb blast that wounded eight in Tanzania and a gun battle at a wildlife conservation centre in Kenya - are not reported to be connected, they threaten to badly dent the countries' crucial tourism industry.

Eight people were wounded late Monday when unknown attackers hurled a bomb through the window of a restaurant popular with foreigners and wealthy locals in the north Tanzanian town of Arusha.

“It was an improvised explosive device thrown through a window,” top Tanzanian police officer Issaya Mngulu told AFP.

The floor of the upmarket Indian restaurant in the centre of Arusha was covered in blood, with overturned chairs amid broken glass, an AFP reporter said.

Visitors come to Arusha before travelling on to the snowcapped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, as well as to the Serengeti national park, famed for its spectacular great migration of wildebeest.

In Kenya, gunmen stormed conservation offices on the coast near the tourist island of Lamu, battling with police before setting fire to buildings and vehicles and escaping, following a series of massacres in nearby settlements, government officials said.

“They set ablaze the camp and also several vehicles, then there was also shooting between the attackers and police at the base,” said government official Shahasi Abdalla, the local area chief, adding that there were no casualties.

The ranch hosts offices of the Lamu Conservation Trust, which works to support local peoples and traditional ways of life, and protect some 63 000 acres (25 000 hectares) of coastal forest inhabited by elephants and buffalo.

Lamu island has in the past hosted wealthy visitors including celebrities. In January, American actress Kristin Davis visited the site where the attack took place, as part of her work supporting elephant conservation efforts.

There was no claim of responsibility for that attack, but it follows several killings in the area which claimed at least 87

lives, according to the Red Cross.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab have claimed responsibility for previous attacks in the Lamu area, saying they were 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.

However, police have blamed the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence of the coastal region, while Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta accused “local political networks” and criminal gangs.

Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said Tuesday 45 people had been arrested along the coast in connection to the spate of recent violence.

However, the unrest has already provoked scores of cancellations for the tourist industry - a key foreign currency earner and massive employer for the country - at one of its traditionally busiest times of the year.

In a further blow to the sector, a Russian tourist was murdered on Saturday in Kenya's port city of Mombasa while touring Fort Jesus - a 16th century Portuguese-built fort and a UNESCO World Heritage Site - in what police said was “normal thuggery”.

Tanzanian police said they had arrested two Tanzanian nationals were arrested following the attack in Arusha, but said they did not believe Shebab extremists were to blame.

“We do not know who the attackers are, but we do not suspect any involvement with Al-Shebab,” Mngulu said.

On July 3, two people were wounded when an improvised bomb was hurled into the home of leading Muslim cleric in Arusha, Mngulu said.

In a separate attack in Kenya's restive northeastern Wajir region also late Monday, some 450 kilometres (240 miles) north of Lamu, gunmen hurled a grenade into a restaurant before spraying diners with bullets, killing one and wounding several others.

The remote rural region is one of Kenya's most volatile areas, awash with guns and armed bandits, and while the Shebab have also carried out attacks there, local revenge killings between rival clans are also common.

Sapa-AFP



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