Al-Shabaab claim responsibility for Kenya attack

The group said its mujahideen fighters had killed 40 people despite initial reports of 36.

Kenyan soliders gather around the bodies of victims on the ground at a quarry near Mandera, northeastern Kenya on 2 December 2014. Picture: EPA.

NAIROBI - Somalia's al-Shabaab Islamist group said on Tuesday it was responsible for an attack on a northeastern Kenyan quarry where it said it had executed dozens of "Kenyan crusaders".

The group said its mujahideen fighters had killed 40 people, although the government and other Kenyan officials put the death toll at 36. As with other attacks on Kenyan soil, al-Shabaab said in a statement it was punishing Kenya for sending troops to Somalia with African forces to fight the Islamist rebels.

Gunmen crept up on dozens of workers as they slept in tents around the quarry at about 1am local time, a village elder at Korome, near the site of the attack close to the Somali border, told Reuters.

"The militia separated the Muslims, then ordered the non-Muslims to lie down where they shot them on the head at close range," Hassan Duba said.

A witness said most victims were shot in the head and at least two were beheaded. He counted 36 bodies at the quarry, about 15 km from the town of Mandera.

Kenya's government confirmed 36 people were killed and cited survivors saying about 20 attackers were involved. One person died in another attack on the northern town of Wajir late on Monday, it added.

The 23 November bus attack also took place on the outskirts of Mandera. In that case, militants ordered non-Muslims off the bus and shot them, while sparing Muslims.

Critics say President Uhuru Kenyatta has not done enough to secure the nation since al-Shabaab gunmen attacked Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last year, an assault that left 67 people dead. A series of other al-Shabaab attacks have followed.

"We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya's aggression," spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said.

Opponents of the government say the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia has not protected Kenya and so they should be withdrawn.