|Kenyan soldiers patrol after violent incidents in coastal areas in Kenya, March 4, 2013. At least 14 people have been killed in the last 24 hours in separate incidents in Kenya's Indian Ocean port city Mombasa and northern region as millions of voters thronged polling stations. (Xinhua)
NAIROBI, March 4 (Xinhua) -- At least 14 people have been killed in the last 24 hours in separate incidents in Kenya's Indian Ocean port city Mombasa and northern region as millions of voters thronged polling stations.
Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo told journalists in Nairobi that six policemen and six members of the secessionist group, the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), were killed in Mombasa while two civilians died in the northern town of Garissa.
Kimaiyo said 400 more police officers have been airlifted to the coastal region to reinforce security in the region where the MRC is charging that the coastal people's rights to land and property ownership have been violated.
"We are reinforcing security in the coastal province and all other hotspots areas. About 400 officers are being flown to Mombasa this morning. All police officers are under firm instructions to be keen and on the lookout for any assailants," the police chief said.
He also directed the police officers to use their firearms as provided in law and ensure that no further loss of lives is experienced.
Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Kilele said four officers were brutally murdered in the area of Changamwe in Mombasa by armed militia suspected to be affiliated to the secessionist group.
Among those killed were the Changamwe divisional police commander, Otieno Awour, his deputy and other officers who were in the police vehicle.
"We have also reported another attack in Chumani area in Kilifi where five people were hacked to death including three police officers and two civilians," Kilele told journalists in Nairobi.
The MRC had earlier threatened to disrupt the March 4 presidential election in the coastal region.
The latest attack at Chumani reveals that the officers were responding to the distress call when they were facing the machete welding gang.
According to Kimaiyo, 200 people believed to be MRC members armed with rifles, bows and arrows were involved in the Changamwe attack at 11 p.m. on Sunday.
"They were identified by red and blue ribbons. The police officers responded but fell into ambush of over 200 attackers who were placed on both sides of the road," Kimaiyo said.
He said the police officers were overpowered and during the incident some officers were murdered after sustaining deep cuts on their bodies, adding that two attackers were killed and two others arrested.
Kimaiyo said senior police officers also lost their lives in a separate attack in Mombasa's Kilifi town. "Six members of MRC have died in the attack and two have been arrested," he said.
The police chief also confirmed that there was one grenade blast at a police camp in Garissa on Sunday evening, where two people were killed.
"As much as we want to make arrests, people with ill motives and intensions to disrupt elections must be stopped by all means. We are proud of our offices who lost their lives while on duty protecting innocent citizens," Kimaiyo said.
He assured Kenyans no to panic as their safety was being taken care of by the police. "No member of public should be threatened. The police service is committed and ready to put their lives on line as long as member of public are secure," he said.
"People of Mombasa should take this opportunity to turn out in large numbers and vote. The officers have lost their lives while protecting you and you can only make them proud by voting and not staying at home," the police boss said.
He said the secessionist group should take the opportunity to show their areas of discontent through the ballot and not putting lives of their followers at risk by attacking security personnel.
Police officers in Mombasa said the group's activities are meant to instill fear among voters not to participate in the general election to elect leaders to different political seats but tension remains high in the region with fears of possible revenge attack.
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.
But the MRC'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.
Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot, is one of the targets in a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.
Kenyans hope the elections will be violence free and help redeem the country's image after the devastating violence of 2008. The violence dented Kenya's global image and eroded part of the respect the country enjoyed among its African peers.
Kenya is currently a champion of regional infrastructure projects like the rail, road and oil pipeline projects planned to originate from the Lamu Port in the coastal region and link to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.
Any sort of election related violence will raise the risk profile of the country and make its harder to attract investors for such mega projects.