Nairobi - At least 12 people including six policemen were
killed in clashes in Kenya's coastal region Monday, hours before polling
stations opened in tense general elections, police said.
"Six policemen and six attackers were killed during the
confrontation" in the port city of Mombasa, Kenyan police chief David
Kimaiyo told reporters, adding that 400 officers were being sent to the coastal
province to beef up security.
Kimaiyo said the attackers were suspected members of the
Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group seeking the secession of the coastal
region popular with tourists, adding that they were armed with guns as well as
bows and arrows.
"A police unit on patrol was ambushed by a gang of more
than 200 armed youth believed to MRC," Kimaiyo said.
A policeman was also killed in an attack in Kilifi region, about
50km north of Mombasa, he added.
A remote-controlled bomb was also set off in the north-eastern
town of Mandera, a town on the restive border with war-torn Somalia, but
resulted in no casualties.
"There have been no casualties and voting is still
going on," in Mandera, he added.
Leading presidential candidate Prime Minister Raila Odinga said
the violence was "very regrettable" and condemned in "the
strongest terms possible this heinous act of aggression".
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairperson
Ahmed Issack Hassan condemned the outbreaks of violence, including in the
northeastern town of Garissa.
"In Mandera there was an explosion, in Garissa there
was an incident of shooting and in Coast [region] there was an incident of
violence," Issak Hassan told a press conference. "Security has been
beefed up in those regions."
The IEBC chief also acknowledged some logistical problems.
"Some few polling stations opened late. In some others
the coordination of the queuing of voters was not well done," he said.
However, European Union election observer mission chief
Alojz Peterle said initial reports indicated that "most polling stations
opened on time, high turnout with big queues, mostly patient and calm."