Militants launched a coordinated attack on two churches in Kenya killing not less than 17 people on Sunday.

Dozens of others were wounded in the attack which took place in the town of Garissa in Northern Kenya. The masked militants, wearing blue uniforms, used guns and grenades.

Some of the victims were shot dead at close range using pistols. Many of them were shot in their head, reported the Daily Nation.

This is one of the worse attacks since the country sent troops to Somalia eight months back. Kenya sent troops to Somalia in October to bring down the al Shahaab militancy.

The attack may have been aimed at the Somali population as Garissa has a significant number of them. The town is around 140 kilometres from the Somali border.

"This is the worst single attack since October, when our troops went into Somalia. It is the worst in terms of the numbers killed, the manner of execution, the anger behind it and the anguish it has aroused as well as the national impact it has had," Reuters quoted a national police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe as saying.

None of the groups has claimed responsibility for the attack yet but there is speculation that the al Shahaab may be the culprit.

Reports suggest that there were at least seven assailants who first hurled grenades at the Catholic Church and the African Inland Church after which they opened gunfire at the fleeing worshippers.

Two of the victims were police officials while nine of them were reportedly women.

"I had a front row seat in the church. I heard something fall on the roof. Then there was a huge explosion. I (fell) on the ground. Then there was shooting and people were screaming. I was 100 metres away from the church when I saw two gunmen at the entrance spray bullets at the congregation," Paul Mwalali, one of the witnesses was quoted by Reuters as telling the Daily Nation newspaper.

The attack has drawn sharp criticism from all over. The Kenyan authorities severely condemned it saying all places of worship should be respected regardless of one's faith.