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Al Shabaab open new front in Kenya with Mpeketoni attack

If you are looking for expert comment on African history and politics, David Anderson is the University of Warwick's Professor of African History.

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Professor Anderson's commment:

An attack on the coastal town of Mpeketoni has left more than 60 Kenyans dead. There have now been more than 100 attacks in Kenya since the invasion of southern Somalia in October 2011. This is the "blowback" that many dreaded, and it is proving impossible for the Kenya security forces to contain.

The targets were the local police station, the petrol station - the only one on this stretch of coast - and local bars where people were gathered to watch the World Cup after the conclusion of evening prayers.

Kenya is a country at war. And that is not good for its tourist industry, or for the economic stability of the wider region.

The Kenya military has disrupted Al Shabaab's control of southern Somalia, but a new front is now open in the conflict within Kenya itself.

Recent actions of the police and army in the indiscriminate rounding-up of Somalis, the mistreatment of those being questioned, and, not least, suspicion of extra-judicial killings of suspects, have further antagonised moderate Muslim opinion within Kenya. For their part, Al Shabaab have upped the stakes in recent weeks - not least with the assassination of Mombasa's leading Muslim cleric, and a series of car bombs in urban areas. This latest attack at Mpeketoni is another step on the steep learning curve for Kenyans as they learn what it means to be a country at war.

Kenya's allies in the West already provide a very high level of security and intelligence support. The question is whether the Kenyans are capable of acting upon it? So far, they are not doing very well. The situation is bad, and it is likely to get worse.