: 34 persons die as Islamists attack Kenyan coastal towwn

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At least 34 people have died after suspected Islamist attacked hotels and a police station in a Kenyan coastal town, police say.

Witnesses in Mpeketoni said gun battles went on for several hours and reported seeing buildings set on .

The town is close to Lamu island, which is a well-known tourist resort.

has suffered a number militant attacks since 2011 when its forces entered neighbouring Somalia to combat al-Shabab fighters.

The BBC’s Yusuf Dayo in Nairobi said the started at 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT) on Sunday as locals were watching a football World Cup on television.

Local residents told the BBC that the attackers had hijacked a van and used to various locations across the town.

Witnesses said , who had their faces covered, threw into the local police station before entering and stealing several .

Al-Shabab ?

Local police chief Hamaton Mwaliko told Reuters that the set several hotels on after raiding the police station.

“We understand the attackers have already fled but officers are pursuing them,” Mr Mwaliko added.

is unclear who the are but Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the “assailants [are] likely to be al-Shabab.”

He said surveillance aircraft had been dispatched to the region to help with the operation.

Bozo Jenje, a journalist in Mombasa, told the BBC that residents had reported seeing bodies scattered across roads in the town.

He said Mpeketoni was a mainly Christian community.

Nearby Lamu island is a popular tourist destination with ancient architecture that is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. (BBC)