MOMBASA, Kenya, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Four Kenyan police officers were on Monday killed by group suspected secessionist group, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) that had early threatened to disrupt the general elections in the coastal region, hours before polls started.
Regional police commander, Aggrey Adoli said the slain police officers were ambushed by over 100 militia at Mombasa's Miritini area at around 02:00 hrs local time.
Among those killed was Changamwe divisional police commander, Otieno Awour and his station commander, and two other police officers who were in the police vehicle.
"Our officers were attacked while on patrol but we have dispatched a team of security officers to visit the scene before I give the official figures," Adoli told Xinhua by telephone.
The killings came a few hours before polls opened as 14.3 million Kenyans vote to elect the country's fourth president and other local officials in the historic polls under new constitution.
The polling stations opened at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) and will close at 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Monday. Voters will also elect 47 senators, 47 governors and other officials in the general election. The election authority, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has set up 33,000 polling stations across the country and about 99,000 police officers have been deployed all over the country.
Eight candidates are competing for the presidency, with the top leading presidential candidates, Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD)'s Raila Odinga, and the candidate of Jubilee Alliance, Uhuru Kenyatta locked in a tight presidential contest. The two leading candidates have publicly vowed that no repeat of fatal violence would happen.
The Monday's election will be the first presidential polls since the December 2007 vote, which was followed by post-election violence in which more than 1,200 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 650,000 forcibly displaced.
The MRC group had earlier attacked residents at Mshomoroni area in Kisauni district where they slashed two civilians before escaping.
Local police boss Julius Wanjohi said the injured were rushed to the nearby hospital for treatment.
MRC, an increasingly violent Islamist group, is charging that the coastal people's rights to land and property ownership has been violated.
The MRC and other illegal groups affiliated to it have in the past been accused of being behind sporadic attacks targeting police officers and government officials, especially the electoral and boundaries commission officers.
The government has advised Kenyans to continue being vigilant as the forces of terror will seek to fight back, adding that citizens should work closely with security forces and administrators in flushing out all dangerous elements who threaten the country's security.
The authorities suspect that the group activities are meant to instill fear among voters.
According to eyewitness over 100 militia dressed in black Shanzu (Swahili clothes) and Red ribbon tied around the head were spotted in various parts of coast before they started to carry out the attacks.
Adoli said elaborate security measures have been put in place to ensure the exercise is peaceful.
"I Am assuring the locals and foreigners that our officers are up to task to hold election and deal with any illegal group planning to disrupt the process," Adoli reaffirmed.
Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot, is one of various cities targeted by a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.
Western nations have already warned its citizens to be "extremely vigilant" in Mombasa. The group's key agenda remains largely unclear beyond the call for the separation of Mombasa and the coastal region from the rest of Kenya.
The members said they joined the group because of frustration caused by unemployment after the collapse of industries in the Coastal region.
The security team believes that the recent spate of attacks in the region is being perpetrated by the MRC's military wing, which majority consists of youths, most of whom are "tired" of what they consider historical injustices.