NAIROBI - Officials in Kenya said at least 22 people have been killed in two attacks overnight near to the same area where 60 people were killed in a terrorist assault last month.
The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks, although police blamed the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence of the coastal region, the French news agency AFP reported.
"Preliminary investigation shows the attack was carried out by MRC members," Kenya's deputy police chief Grace Kaindi told a press conference at the police headquarters, AFP reported. "There is also evidence that the attacks are motivated by political and religious issues."
Kenya's Red Cross said the attacks occurred nearly simultaneously late Saturday. It said nine people are dead in the Gamba area of Tana River County, while four others were shot and killed at the Hindi Trading Center in Lamu County.
Security officials said gunmen stormed a police station in Gamba, killing officers inside.
Local media reported the assailants also freed a detainee being held at the police station on suspicion of involvement in the attack last month.
A person in Lamu who called police upon hearing approaching gunfire said gunmen arrived around 11 p.m. Saturday and killed people for about the next 30 minutes.
Kenya Red Cross Society external relations director Wariko Waita said most of the casualties in Saturday's attack were civilians.
“What we have confirmed in Gamba - most of the assessment has been completed - unfortunately, we have nine fatalities confirmed and we have one casualty evacuated for treatment. For Hindi, in Lamu, the assessment continues, at the current moment, the confirmation there is 12 fatalities,” he said.
Waita said two people critically wounded in Hindi are being airlifted for treatment.
Hindi is near to the area of Mpeketoni, where gunmen last month killed at least 60 people and torched properties in multiple, coordinated attacks.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the violence in Mpeketoni was politically motivated, despite the claim of responsibility by al-Shabab militants.
Kenya's coast has been struck several times this year with several grenade and bomb attacks targeting resort hotels and public places. In March, gunmen opened fire on a church outside the city of Mombasa killing six people.
Last month, a moderate Muslim cleric was also shot dead in Mombasa - the fourth religious leader killed in the area in the past two years.
Meanwhile, security forces are bracing for a planned political rally Monday in the capital, Nairobi, organized by supporters of former prime minister Raila Odinga.