* Three suspected al Shabaab supporters killed
* Several police hurt, one dies of wounds
* Insecurity at the coast harming tourism
MOMBASA, Kenya, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Police shot dead three
suspected supporters of the Somali militant group al Shabaab on
Wednesday in a raid in Kenya's turbulent coastal region, in
which a police officer also died.
Kenya has suffered a series of grenade and gun attacks since
it sent troops into Somalia a year ago in pursuit of the
insurgents it blames for kidnapping security personnel and
Western tourists from its territory.
Grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition were also
confiscated during the night-time operation in the run-down
Likoni area during the operation, Coast province police chief
Aggrey Adoli said.
A local group campaigning for independence for the Coast
region has added to tensions ahead of a presidential and
parliamentary election due in March, the first since a disputed
2007 poll that sparked inter-ethnic violence nationwide in which
more than 1,200 people were killed and thousands more displaced.
Adoli said the suspected al Shabaab supporters threw two
grenades and opened fire when an elite Nairobi police unit burst
into their building, seriously wounding four officers. One later
died of his wounds in hospital.
About six people were also arrested but later released after
it was found they were neighbours caught up in the raid, he
"With the key suspects killed and weapons recovered, the
operation (has ended). It's still a big success in our war
against terrorism," Adoli told Reuters.
Mwagomba Juma, a youth leader who lives in the area, said
heavy gunfire, punctuated by at least two blasts, began in the
early hours of the morning.
Dozens of police in bullet-proof vests and armed with
automatic rifles combed the neighbourhood, just south of the
port city of Mombasa, as nervous residents peered through their
windows, witnesses said.
The instability has kept many foreign tourists away. The
number of visitors to Kenya was down by a fifth in the first
eight months of this year, a heavy blow to the tourism sector
which is a main driver of east Africa's biggest economy.
In Nairobi, Kenyan police arrested Mohammed Dor, a
legislator and prominent Muslim cleric from the coastal region,
after he said he had no objection to funding the separatist
Muslim Mombasa Republican Council if they approached him.
"He will be charged in a Kenyan court of law on Thursday for
incitement to violence," Ireri Kamwende, Nairobi's provincial
criminal investigation officer said.
Dor's arrest sparked fierce criticism of the police by
Kenya's Muslim leaders, who said their community was now living
in "fear" of the police.
"We take this as a humiliation. It's not only an
embarrassment, it is disgraceful," Abdullahi Abdi, chairman of
the National Muslim Leaders Forum, told reporters in Nairobi.
Kenyan authorities have intensified a crackdown on the MRC
movement which is seeking independence for the coastal region, a
tourism and trade hub. The MRC says the region has suffered
decades of social and economic marginalisation.
On Monday, MRC leader Omar Mwamnuadzi and 36 supporters were
arrested. Kenya's government said last week it had information
that the MRC intended to sow chaos during national school exams
that began on Monday.
Though there are no known links between the MRC and al
Shabaab, there is a sizeable community of indigenous Somalis in
Nairobi and along the coast swelled by numerous Somali refugees
fleeing conflict in their homeland.
They as well as Kenya's Muslims, who also make a large part
of the coastal population, are thought to harbour some
sympathies with the Somali militant group, as well as demands
for secession for the coastal strip.