Mpeketoni: How attack threw calm newsroom into high gear

Mpeketoni: How attack threw calm newsroom into high gear
Mpeketoni: How attack threw calm newsroom into high gear

It all started with an innocuous SMS alert at 10.37pm on Sunday as France was playing Honduras in a World Cup match.


“Mpeketoni police station and two hotels attacked, IG Kimaiyo confirms incident, says he is waiting for details,” the alert said. It had all the hallmarks of a big breaking story.


I made a few phone calls and sent messages to various members of the Daily Nation editorial team and soon established that at least six people had been confirmed dead. But the sound of gunfire could still be heard, more than two and a half hours after the attack was first reported.

With that, what would have been a normal news day, splashing a political rally organised by the Opposition and having a beautiful picture of Cote d’Ivoire thrashing Japan at the World Cup was threatening to end on a rather sour note.


Within minutes, the hashtag #MpeketoniAttack started inching its way among trending stories on twitter. Mostly, it was people asking the government to do something to stop the attackers.

Hours later, a photograph of a May Day tweet that Boniface Githaiga, who was trapped in Mpeketoni had sent out asking for help would become one of the dominating images of the day.


“We are dying here in mpeketoni lamu alshabab have been shoting for two hrs now.sobody help us (sic),” the tweet said. According to the image, the tweet was posted at 10.04pm. Within hours, the images on twitter would morph from the worrying to the horrifying as the death toll soared.


A chat with our reporter on the ground, Mr Kalume Kazungu, painted an appalling scenario. There were still gunshots and, according to him, the attackers had left Mpeketoni town and were heading towards a place called Kibauni, which was now the new theatre of violence.


Twitter was heating up. The #Mpeketoni hashtag was no longer in the bottom of the pile. It had inched its way to the top, past Tononoka, #ARGvsBIH and Messi.


The pleas for help were turning into anger as more details of the attack emerged.

The most telling tweets of the night came from Mr Abbas Gullet, who heads the Kenya Red Cross Society.

“What we are seeing here is not fit for this forum (too graphic),” or something close to that, he wrote. Coming from Mr Gullet, a man whose team has been at the scene of every disaster on Kenyan soil, that was as gruesome as it could get.


By 7.45am Monday, the Lamu Deputy Commissioner, Mr Benson Maisori, had put the death toll at 26. In less than two hours it would be 48 as more bodies were discovered.


President Kenyatta summoned an emergency security meeting amid reports that he would be heading to Mpeketoni. State House would later announce that the trip, and another planned for Tuesday for Moyale, had been cancelled for security reasons.


Soon after the security meeting, the Cabinet Secretary for the Interior and Co-ordination of the National Government, Mr Joseph ole Lenku, addressed a first official press conference on the attack.

Three hours after the press conference, Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.


Mpeketoni: How attack threw calm newsroom into high gear

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