December 12, 2014 / 4:40 AM / 3 years ago

One policeman killed, two wounded in attack on Kenya coast camp

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Suspected separatists killed a Kenyan policeman and critically wounded two more when they attacked a camp in the coastal county of Kilifi, a senior regional official said on Friday.

Albert Kobia, the county commissioner for Kilifi, said machete-wielding attackers raided the police camp in the Mwanamwinga area late on Thursday night, killing the corporal in charge.

Kobia said four of the attackers went to the camp posing as members of the public seeking help. "Over 20 men then suddenly appeared from the darkness and started attacking the officers who were on duty. They escaped with two guns," he said.

"We think the MRC are involved," he said, referring to the Mombasa Republican Council -- a separatist group that wants independence for Kenya's Indian Ocean coastal regions, citing decades of neglect by the government in Nairobi.

Randu Nzai, the secretary general of MRC, rejected the accusation. "We are not even aware of any attack in the first place. As usual the government is using us as a scapegoat," he told Reuters.

The MRC is an outlawed group that lost most of its strength in heavy crackdowns by the government in 2012 and 2013. It had carried out several violent raids in the area before then.

This year, Kenya's coastal strip has borne the brunt of frequent gun and grenade attacks, mostly blamed on Islamist militants from neighboring Somalia.

The violence has caused a slump in tourism, an economic mainstay for the region and an important source of foreign exchange for Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the east African nation was facing extra-ordinary challenges due to internal and external security threats like radical elements in Somalia.

"An international war is happening in and outside Kenya’s borders," Kenyatta told a ceremony to mark the country's independence from Britain 51 years ago.

"Kenya must enhance its ability to detect, monitor and eliminate security threats," he said, citing amendments before parliament, designed to strengthen the security agencies.

Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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