Security officers guard at the scene of crime at Mpeketoni, a coastal town in Kenya, June 16, 2014. According to Kenya's Red Cross, at least 48 people died in Sunday's attack here when more than 50 masked gunmen descended on the busy town and sprayed bullets on villagers, and torched several houses and buildings including the local Equity Bank branch. (Xinhua)
by Njoroge Kaburo, Chris Mgidu, Joy Nabukewa
MOMBASA, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the Sunday night attack in Kenya's eastern coastal town of Mpeketoni has risen to 48, with three more injured victims being rushed to hospital for treatment, a humanitarian agency said Monday.
Wariko Jacqueline Waita, who is with Kenya Red Cross Society and in charge of external relations, said all those killed in the attack were men and had gunshots on them.
"We can confirm 48 deaths and three more injured who have been evacuated and rushed to hospital. The attack took place while people were at different places and we are trying to trace the missing persons," Waita told Xinhua from the scene.
There is massive destruction of infrastructure in the area. Several building -- including restaurants, hotels, banks and government offices -- were torched during the attack.
Survivors said the attack started at around 8:00 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), when about 50 heavily armed attackers with explosives stormed this busy eastern coastal town in vehicles, spraying bullets on the residents.
They said Mpeketoni is now like a ghost town as many residents are still not back home after they took cover last night in the bushes.
Police have expressed fears that the death toll could further rise since the attack occurred while bars and cafes were packed with fans watching the FIFA World Cup on television.
"More bodies have been recovered and right now we are talking about 48 dead persons. All the dead are men. There are no women or children, and this fairly complicates matters," said police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi.
Lamu County Police Commander Leonard Omollo said the attackers shot indiscriminately to residents and security forces were hunting them down. He said the government will boost security measures.
The attackers were suspected to be Al-Shabaab fighters. The group and its sympathizers are responsible for several attacks against the police and other targets in Kenya. But it on Monday denied responsibility for the latest attack.
It "is premature to blame any group," said Omollo, adding that police "are conducting intelligence gathering to know those behind."
The area is a tourist hub and the attack is a blow to the already struggling sector, which has been hit hard by increasing grenade attacks in the recent past.
Al-Qaida-linked Somali militants have vowed to attack Kenya after Kenyan soldiers crossed into Somalia in 2011 to flush out the insurgents Nairobi blamed for kidnappings of tourists.
The militants have previously committed similar attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and towns bordering Somalia, killing several people in what they said was a retaliation for the Kenyan military incursion in their country.