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Al-Shabab extremists wage violent attack in Kenya

July 6, 2014 at 5:26 PM EDT
Authorities in Kenya say at least 29 people were killed in a series of attacks by Al-Shabab extremists from neighboring Somalia. One Kenyan official said the extremists "went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately." For the latest developments, Heidi Vogt of the Wall Street Journal joins John Larson via Skype from Nairobi.
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JOHN LARSON: Terrorists have struck again in East Africa. Authorities in Kenya say at least 29 people were killed in a series of attacks that Islamic Al-Shabab extremists from neighboring Somalia claimed they were behind.

One Kenyan official said later, they went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately.

For more we’re joined now via Skype from Nairobi Kenya by Heidi Vogt of the Wall Street Journal.

Heidi, thanks so much for joining us. What more do we know about this particular incident?

HEIDI VOGT: Well, this was sort of twin attacks in two areas about ninety kilometers apart. We had gunmen go into these villages. We do have some witnesses saying that they were targeting Christian men, which is something we saw in attacks a few weeks ago, but we also have reports that they may have been trying to free prisoners or just going in as you were saying, shooting.

JOHN LARSON: Now this is the latest in a series of attacks. I mean we’re familiar with the horrible attacks in the shopping center in Nairobi, but there’s been a series now.

HEIDI VOGT: Yeah the most recent attack like this that drew a lot of attention to this Eastern region of Kenya was just about three weeks ago around Mpeketoni where we had some sixty people killed, slaughtered really at night as attackers went door to door asking if people were Muslim or Christian. So it really is showing these aren’t isolated incidents.

JOHN LARSON: We’ve always heard about Kenya being this shining hope of Democracy we’ve seen Western businesses, lots of tourism in the area. What effects have these attacks had on those areas?

HEIDI VOGT: You know Kenya’s not just this shining hope, it’s really been the stabilizing factor for this whole region.

I mean when you look at its neighbors you have Somalia and South Sudan and Kenya’s been a country that’s gone in to negotiate that’s sent troops in in some cases and that Western powers have used as a partner to try to combat the terrorist threat across East Africa.

So if Kenya is suddenly a place that is unsafe and uncertain it raises a lot more questions for what that means for the entire East African region.

JOHN LARSON: Now how great a threat is Al Shabab and what are its ties to other Islamic extremist groups around the world?

HEIDI VOGT: Well Al-Shab is affiliated with Al Qaeda and it’s been a major destabilizing force in the region. They’ve been working against the Somali government of course for years. Now a lot of these attacks in Kenya they say are in retaliation for Kenyan forces going in and trying to help put down that insurgency in Somalia, so it’s really had an effect throughout a lot of Kenya as well.

JOHN LARSON: Heidi Vogt of the Wall Street Journal, thanks so much for joining us.