Kenya arrests governor over attacks that killed 65

Thursday 26 June 2014 23.30
People gather next to charred vehicles outside a police station in Mpeketoni after the attacks
People gather next to charred vehicles outside a police station in Mpeketoni after the attacks

Kenyan police have arrested an opposition politician who is a county governor in connection with gun attacks in his area that killed about 65 people.

"Lamu (County) Governor Issa Timamy arrested over recent violence and deaths in the Mpeketoni area to appear in court," the presidential State House said on Twitter.

"It's true. We have him with us," Mombasa County police chief Robert Kitur told Reuters.

Lamu County is north of Mombasa County, home to the country's main port.

Mr Timamy is a member of a party which is part of the opposition CORD coalition, a group led by Raila Odinga, who has demanded a dialogue with the government by 7 July, when he has promised to hold nationwide rallies.

Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attacks this month around Mpeketoni in Lamu County, but President Uhuru Kenyatta has dismissed that and accused local political networks and local politicians of being behind them.

Ethnic violence has erupted in the past, notably after a contested 2007 election when about 1,200 people were killed in tribal clashes.

Lamu is an area where ethnic-fuelled disputes over land and other issues have festered for decades.

Mr Odinga, a former prime minister who was Mr Kenyatta's main challenger in last year's presidential vote, has said talks are needed to discuss security failings and other problems.

The government has dismissed the demand, saying Mr Odinga is trying to manufacture a crisis to claw his way back to office.

Police also arrested 13 members of the outlawed separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council, and accused them of planning ethnically-motivated attacks similar to the Mpeketoni killings.

The Council denies any role in the Mpeketoni attacks and there was no immediate comment from the group after the detentions.

"The 13 arrested by police are suspected to be planning to attack four areas - Witu, Kipini, Marereni and Garsen - all in the coastal region," the ministry said, saying they had planned an "ethnic cleansing attack similar to Mpeketoni".

Officials said security forces killed five of the suspected Mpeketoni attackers last week. Police said they had not established their identities and no one had collected the bodies.

Many Kenyans accuse the government of doing too little to prevent violence.

Rights groups say the police often use heavy-handed tactics, such as mass roundups of Somalis or Kenyans with Somali links, only to free most of them, an approach they say breeds more resentment.