* Government intensifies crackdown, arrests against group
* Leader of separatist group arrested earlier this week
MOMBASA, Kenya Oct 20 Kenya on Saturday told
members of a separatist group to surrender or face arrest as the
east African country intensified a crackdown on the movement
ahead of an election next year.
The Mombasa Republican Council's (MRC) campaign for the
secession of Kenya's Indian Ocean coastal strip, a tourist
hotspot and trade hub, is just one of many concerns ahead of the
March election, the first since the 2007 poll after which some
1,200 people were killed and thousands displaced.
"I am asking all MRC officials and members who are still out
there to surrender voluntarily and also surrender their weapons
this weekend," Coast province commissioner Samuel Kilele said at
a gathering for national day celebrations in Mombasa.
"We know them and we will go for them if they don't heed
this call. We will go for them and arrest them," he said.
President Mwai Kibaki also said his government would take
decisive action against those who "issued threats of secession
or those who threaten our security".
Earlier this week, Kenyan police arrested MRC leader Omar
Mwamnuadzi and later charged him with possession of firearms and
incitement to violence.
A Kenyan court charged a lawmaker and prominent Muslim
preacher for inciting violence after he said he would be willing
to fund the group.
On Saturday, machete-wielding men attempted to raid a police
station in Kaloleni district, 30 km (18 miles) west of Mombasa,
before being repelled by police, Erastus Kidor, Kilifi's
government commissioner, said.
They then managed to raid a police camp further away,
wounding a police officer and escaping with a rifle, he said.
Police recovered "machetes and printed material bearing the
MRC logo" from the scene of the first attack.
"So preliminarily we are linking the incident to MRC," Kidor
said, adding three people had been arrested for interrogation.
The MRC could not immediately be reached for comment.
A Mombasa court issued arrest warrants on Friday for five
MRC officials for failing to appear in court to answer charges
of being members of an unlawful society.
MRC's grievances stem from what it calls decades of social
and economic marginalisation of the people in the coastal region
of Kenya, east Africa's largest economy.
Earlier this month, MRC spokesman Mohamed Mraja and
secretary Randu Nzai Ruwa were charged with inciting members to
disobey the law, shortly after a gang of youths brandishing
machetes attacked a cabinet minister and killed his bodyguard.
Police linked the attack to the MRC, but the group denied
involvement. Kenyan security agents investigating the group,
formed in 1999, believe it is backed by wealthy Arabs.
Kenyan officials say MRC is infiltrated by fighters from
al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab, which has waged a
five-year insurgency against Somalia's government in 2007.
Kenya's troops crossed into Somalia a year ago to crush the
militants whom it blamed for attacks and kidnappings on its
soil. Three weeks ago, Kenya's defence forces - under the
umbrella of African Union troops (AMISOM) - took control of the
Somali port city of Kismayu, al Shabaab's last major bastion.
Police have carried out raids in the coastal region against
suspected al Shabaab members. Three suspects were killed in a
raid on Wednesday in which a police officer also died.
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sophie Hares)