Monday, 4 March 2013

Several cops killed as Kenya polls open

Kenyans queued from far before dawn as polls opened on Monday for hard-fought elections, hours after several policemen were killed in an ambush in the port city of Mombasa.

The elections are the first since bloody post-poll violence five years ago in which over 1 100 people were killed, and observers have repeatedly warned of the risk of renewed conflict.

Voters began lining up outside polling stations from as early as 04:00 to cast their votes in the historic election, two hours ahead of the officially opening of the polls, although there were short delays reported in some areas.

Voters packed side streets as they queued in long lines in the port city of Mombasa, despite the gun attacks hours earlier blamed on a coastal separatist movement in which several police officers were killed.

Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said there had been "casualties from both sides" when an armed gang ambushed police officers in Kenya's second city.

"There was a clash between people we suspect are MRC attackers," Kimaiyo said, referring to the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group seeking the secession of the coastal region popular with tourists.

Neck-and-neck rivals for the presidency, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta, have publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the bloodshed that followed the disputed 2007 polls.

Crimes against humanity trials later this year at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto have raised the stakes: should they win the vote, the president and vice-president could be absent on trial for years.

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