KENYAN police have arrested the governor of the coastal Lamu district in connection with three recent massacres in which more than 60 people were killed, officers said Thursday.
Governor Issa Timamy was arrested late Wednesday in connection with last week's killings over two consecutive nights in the town of Mpeketoni and a nearby village that claimed nearly 60 lives. Another attack this week left at least five dead, officials said.
"The governor is in custody," Kenya's Criminal Investigations Department chief Ndegwa Muhoro said.
"There are various charges lined up for him that are related to the attacks," he said.
Timamy appeared in court in the port city Mombasa Thursday, with prosecution demanding to hold him for 14 days while police continued investigations.
Despite an immediate claim of responsibility from the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab for the Mpeketoni attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has blamed "local political networks" along with an "opportunist network of other criminal gangs".
The accusations have stoked already tense political rivalry between Kenyatta and opposition parties.
Timamy is a member of the opposition United Democratic Forum (UDF) party.
UDF party leader Musalia Mudavadi, a former deputy prime minister, criticised the arrest, calling it "selective victimisation."
Survivors of the attack in Mpeketoni reported gunmen speaking Somali and carrying Shebab flags, executing non-Muslims and saying their actions were revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force fighting the Islamists.
More than 60 people perished in the attacks that shook the coastal town of Mpeketoni. AFP Photo
The attackers appeared to target Mpeketoni because the town is a mainly Christian settlement in the Muslim-majority coastal region, having been settled decades ago by the Kikuyu people, the same tribe as Kenyatta.
Police on Wednesday also arrested 13 alleged separatists suspected of planning more attacks in the country's coastal region.
An interior ministry statement said those detained were plotting "ethnic cleansing" attacks and were members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), which campaigns for independence of the coastal region.
After the attacks, Kenyan security forces killed five people they suspected of involvement in the massacres, recovering AK-47 assault rifles as well as ammunition.
Three others have also been charged in connection with the killings, including a police officer, the owner of a vehicle used by the attackers, and a suspect accused of running fake Shebab social media accounts.
The attacks have badly dented Kenya's tourist industry at one of its traditionally busiest times of the year, a key foreign currency earner and massive employer for the country.
In separate attacks, at least 20 people were killed over the weekend in northeastern Kenya in ethnic clashes, the latest in a series of revenge attacks between rival Somali clans that has killed over 80 people and forced over 75,000 people from their homes since May.