NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan bishops’ justice and peace commission criticized the five-hour-long massacre in the coastal town of Mpeketoni and asked: “Where was the security? Where was the intelligence? Where were the police? What happened to the various roadblocks?”A resident holds a placard as he participates in a June 17 protest against the recent attack by unidentified gunmen in the town of Mpeketoni, Kenya. Nearly 50 people were killed and others wounded when more than two dozen unidentified gunmen attacked the coastal town. (CNS photo/Joseph Okanga, Reuters)

The “heinous killings” left nearly 50 people dead and sent shock waves across the country.

In a June 17 statement, the bishops mourned the June 15 killings, describing them as “another indicator of the overgrown insecurity, which has continuously repeated itself over and over again.”

Observing that similar acts of violence have occurred in other parts of the countries, the bishops said, “It seems our security agencies have failed to unearth and prevent a single attempt.”

Although initial reports attributed the attack to Somali al-Shabaab terrorists, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the attack was “well-planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons.”

Bishop Emanuel Barbara of Malindi, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Mombasa, visited Mpeketoni after the attack. He told the Vatican missionary news agency Fides that, like other attacks in the past, women and children were spared, but fathers were killed, thus weakening the family structure.

The bishop said he believed the attack was carried out by Kenyans and some foreigners.

“From what I have seen I can say that there is an Islamic matrix to these assaults, but it also clear that ethic groups are the main targets,” Bishop Barbara told Fides. “This is because the assailants killed people based on their ethnicity and religion. According to the testimony collected on the spot, some of the assailants have been recognized as Bajuni, a mixed population of Arabs and Africans, who live on the Kenyan coast. Among them there was also a Kenyan born in another part of the country and at least one Arab.”

The justice and peace commission statement spoke of “the anger and desperation of Kenyans arising from the spiraling insecurity and rising tension in the country.” It said the country was witnessing a situation similar to the buildup to the 2007 general elections, which ended in ethnic violence in late 2007 and early 2008.Wreckages of burned cars are seen outside the police station in Mpeketoni, Kenya, June 16 after unidentified gunmen attacked the town. Nearly 50 people were killed and others wounded when more than two dozen unidentified gunmen attacked the coastal town. (CNS photo/Asuu Asuu, Reuters)

“We can never again, as a country, take things for granted. The church and the rest of Kenyans do not wish to see the same situation of 2007-08 repeat itself. We only have one Kenya, and we must guard it jealously,” the bishops said.

They said they realized the government faced huge challenges fighting insecurity and violent crime but added, “It is worth noting that the greatest threat to our security is corruption in the security sector that has made it too easy for foreigners to penetrate our borders.”