Kenyan officials deny women kidnapped in coastal attacks

NAIROBI - Kenyan authorities on Wednesday denied reports that several women were kidnapped during the deadly militant attacks against the town of Mpeketoni and surrounding villages on the country's coast.

Several media reports, quoting local villagers, said the attackers also abducted 12 women having already killed at least 60 people in two consecutive nights of carnage.

"There were no attacks involving women, and therefore those are false reports," Kenya's police chief David Kimaiyo, who is currently visiting the area, told AFP.

Another official, assistant county commissioner Benson Maisori, said investigations have so far shown that the attackers only targeted men.

"There were no such abduction cases of women. What happened is that the attackers went from house to house picking men only. They weren't targeting women at all. They only seemed to target men alone," he said.

He added that in one village the gunmen kidnapped eight men who were later found dead.

"We have seen some reports indicating that women were kidnapped, but we would like to correct that. No women were abducted. We only found a body of one woman who had been shot. We don't know under what circumstances she was shot but she succumbed to gunshot wounds while being taken to hospital," he added.

The Kenyan Red Cross, which has been collecting information on those reported missing, said it also had "no evidence" to substantiate the reports that women were kidnapped.

"The missing persons... either went into hiding or in one way or another couldn't be traced. But we can't deny or confirm any abductions," said Kenyan Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet.

He added that the Red Cross currently had nine people still listed as missing, down from more than 50 missing persons reports it was treating on Tuesday.

A group of heavily-armed gunmen attacked Mpeketoni - close to the tourist island of Lamu - late on Sunday, and a number of eyewitnesses said they singled out non-Muslim men to be executed.

Some 15 people were initially reported killed in a nearby village the following night, although police later corrected the toll to say there were nine dead.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels said they carried out the attacks in retaliation for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as well as the Kenyan government's "brutal oppression" of Muslims.

However Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday blamed "local political networks" for the killings, and said the Shebab were not responsible.