Nairobi - At least 12 people including six policemen were killed in clashes in Kenya's coastal region Monday, hours before polling stations opened in tense general elections, police said.
"Six policemen and six attackers were killed during the confrontation" in the port city of Mombasa, Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo told reporters, adding that 400 officers were being sent to the coastal province to beef up security.
Kimaiyo said the attackers were suspected members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group seeking the secession of the coastal region popular with tourists, adding that they were armed with guns as well as bows and arrows.
"A police unit on patrol was ambushed by a gang of more than 200 armed youth believed to MRC," Kimaiyo said.
A policeman was also killed in an attack in Kilifi region, about 50km north of Mombasa, he added.
A remote-controlled bomb was also set off in the north-eastern town of Mandera, a town on the restive border with war-torn Somalia, but resulted in no casualties.
"There have been no casualties and voting is still going on," in Mandera, he added.
Leading presidential candidate Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the violence was "very regrettable" and condemned in "the strongest terms possible this heinous act of aggression".
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairperson Ahmed Issack Hassan condemned the outbreaks of violence, including in the northeastern town of Garissa.
"In Mandera there was an explosion, in Garissa there was an incident of shooting and in Coast [region] there was an incident of violence," Issak Hassan told a press conference. "Security has been beefed up in those regions."
The IEBC chief also acknowledged some logistical problems.
"Some few polling stations opened late. In some others the coordination of the queuing of voters was not well done," he said.
However, European Union election observer mission chief Alojz Peterle said initial reports indicated that "most polling stations opened on time, high turnout with big queues, mostly patient and calm."