GARISSA, Kenya — More than a dozen people were shot, one woman died, and hundreds of shops were burned to the ground in this eastern Kenyan town amid rising Somali-Kenyan tensions, officials said Tuesday.
The violence follows a lethal attack in the town on Monday in which three Kenyan soldiers were killed. Local sympathizers of al-Shabab — a Somali Islamist extremist group that Kenyan troops are battling in Somalia — are suspected to be responsible for the soldiers’ deaths, said a military spokesman, Colonel Cyrus Oguna.
Witnesses in Garissa, where most of the population is ethnic Somali, said Kenyan troops responded to Monday’s killings with force, opening fire at random. The town’s main market was also torched by the soldiers, said the witnesses.
Oguna denied allegations that Kenya’s military was involved in indiscriminate shooting and destruction of property. He said such reports are meant to antagonize local residents against the army.
The military camp in Garissa is a transit point for Kenyan troops being deployed to Somalia, where they join African Union troops to fight the al-Shabab rebels.
The three officers killed were part of group of five who had stopped at the camp on their way to Somalia. They were killed at a garage where they had gone to change their vehicle’s punctured tire, said Oguna.
Dr. Musa Mohamed, a hospital administrator, said 13 people were shot Tuesday. A witness said one woman had died. The Red Cross said nearly three dozen people have been injured.