The governor of Lamu county in Kenya has been arrested in connection with three recent attacks in which at least 65 people were killed, according to police.
Issa Timamy was arrested late on Wednesday in connection with last week’s killings over two consecutive nights in the town of Mpeketoni and a nearby village that claimed at least 65 lives.
Another attack this week left at least five dead, officials said.
“The governor is in custody,” Ndegwa Muhoro, Kenya’s Criminal Investigations Department chief, said, adding that Timamy would appear in court later on Thursday.
“There are various charges lined up for him that are related to the attack.” he said.
Despite an immediate claim of responsibility from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group 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 exacerbated the political rivalry between Kenyatta and opposition parties.
Timamy is a member of the opposition United Democratic Forum (UDF) party.
Musalia Mudavadi, UDF party leader and a former deputy prime minister, criticised the arrest, calling it “selective victimisation”.
Survivors of the attack in Mpeketoni reported armed men speaking Somali and carrying al-Shabab 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 rebels.
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 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.
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.