Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed the deaths of six Christians in an attack on a residential compound in northeast Kenya on Thursday.

According to local reports, heavily armed gunmen broke into the residential area around 2.45am on Thursday morning, and began firing randomly. Mandera on the Somali border has often been targeted by al Shabaab, which says it will continue its campaign of attacks in Kenya until the Kenyan government withdraws its troops from Somalia where they are part of an African force.

The governor of Mandera county, Ali Roba, has written on Twitter, stating that six people had been confirmed dead. He also added that:

“If not for the quick response by our security forces, we would be talking of many more casualties now. From the nature and style of the attack, it will obviously be al Shabaab.”

In addition he told Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation:

“Six lives are too many to lose. We condemn the attack which comes at a time when locals had started enjoying peace.”

Repeated in attacks in Kenya by al Shabaab have killed hundreds of people in the past three years or so and hammered the country’s vital tourism industry. The assaults have often been in the northeast, near the long and porous border with Somalia, but the group has also struck coastal areas popular with tourists and the capital Nairobi, where al Shabaab gunman attacked Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

In April last year, more than 150 people, mostly students, died when al Shabaab militants attacked Garissa University in north-eastern Kenya. Survivors spoke of merciless executions by the attackers, who stalked classrooms and dormitories hunting for non-Muslim students. Witnesses reported that gunmen singled out Christians for point-blank executions during a 13-hour killing spree. Some survivors were forced to pretend they were dead by covering themselves in blood.

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