World Bulletin / News Desk
At least 15 people were killed in attacks by machete-wielding gangs on Monday as Kenyans queued to vote in a presidential election they hope will rebuild the country's image after a disputed 2007 poll unleashed weeks of tribal bloodshed.
A few hours before the 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) start of voting and with long queues across the nation, at least nine security officers in Kenya's restive coastal region were hacked to death, and six attackers were also killed, a regional police chief Aggrey Adoli said. The total toll had earlier been put at 17.
There were two separate attacks and senior police officers blamed one of them on a separatist movement - which, if confirmed, would suggest different motives to those that caused the post-2007 vote ethnic killings and could limit their impact.
Officials and candidates have made impassioned appeals to avoid a repeat of the tribal rampages that erupted five years ago when disputes over the poll result fuelled clashes between tribal loyalists of rival candidates. More than 1,200 people were killed.
As in 2007, the race has come down to a high-stakes head-to-head between two candidates, this time between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Both will depend heavily on votes from tribal loyalists.
One of the machete attacks on Monday took place outside Mombasa and another in Kilifi about 50 km (80 miles) to the north. Senior police officers blamed the one near Mombasa on a separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council, which had sought and failed to have the national vote scrapped and a referendum on secession instead.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not possible to independently identify the attackers.
Even before the violence, many Kenyans were wary, particularly in places where it erupted last time. Shopkeepers have run down stocks and some people in mixed tribal areas have returned to their homelands elsewhere.
Bernard Otundo, 36, queuing quietly in Nairobi in the early morning darkness, said he expected a peaceful vote.
"Some of us have been here as early as 2 a.m. this morning. I got here slightly after 3 a.m.," he said. "There have been a lot of awareness campaigns against violence and I don't think it will happen this time around, whatever the outcome."
In the early hours before voting, some Kenyans blew whistles and trumpet-like "vuvuzelas" to wake up voters. But others remain fearful that broader violence could flare.
"Our future is uncertain but we long for peace and victory is on our side this time round," said Odinga supporter 32-year-old Eunice Auma in Kisumu, a flashpoint after the 2007 vote.
"However, should our candidate (Odinga) fail to clinch victory. I'm afraid violence will erupt," she said.
Outgoing President Mwai Kibaki, barred from seeking a third five-year term, made what he described as a "passionate plea" for a peaceful vote. The candidates have pledged to accept the result. But the close race has raised the sense of uncertainty.
Though well ahead of six other contenders, polls suggest Odinga and Kenyatta will struggle to secure enough ballots for an outright victory in the first round. That could set the stage for a tense run-off tentatively set for April 11, while a narrow first-round win could raise prospects for challenges.
To try to prevent a repeat of the contested outcome that sparked the violence after the December 2007 vote, a new, broadly respected election commission is using more technology to prevent fraud, speed up counting and increase transparency.
This could lead to a swifter announcement of results, after delays in 2007 fuelled the crisis. Provisional figures may emerge within hours of polls closing, although the commission has seven days to declare the official outcome.
Some voters still grumbled about the slow process as lines snaked hundreds of meters (yards) from the polling station. "People are beginning to fall and faint on the queue," said Peter Gichuchi, waiting for hours in the steamy heat of Mombasa.
To build confidence, Kenya has passed a new constitution since 2007, police chiefs have deployed extra forces to maintain security and there is a more independent judiciary which commands greater respect. Officials have appealed to candidates to raise any challenges in the courts and not on the streets.
Even so, Odinga, 68, has raised a warning flag, telling Reuters two days before the vote that the commission had by "design or omission" failed to register all voters in his strongholds, a charge the commission denies. On Monday, he condemned the violence.
Alongside the presidential race, there are hotly contested elections for senators, county governors, members of parliament, women representatives in county assemblies and civic leaders.
Raid and arrests come after army accusing Premium Times of 'publishing falsehood against its operations and chief'
"I will use sanctions to the maximum amount of the law," Mnuchin says
Angelino Alfano, on a one-day visit to Tunis, met with his counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui and President Beji Caid Essebsi and promised closer relations between the two Mediterranean nations.
Turkey extends condolences to 'friend and ally' Italy
"It's true that during the period of the presidency of Mr. Obama our relations seriously worsened on all levels," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Obama's last full working day as US leader before Donald Trump is sworn in Friday.
Staffan de Mistura will lead the UN delegation to the meetings in the Kazakh capital of Astana that are due to begin on Monday.
May sought to reassure guests at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Brexit did not signal a retreat into protectionism, as a slew of banks revealed plans to relocate staff following her announcement on Tuesday that Britain would leave the single market.
Voicing deep concerns about the development, Stoltenberg said cyber defence will play a key role at the next NATO summit.
Rebels had escaped from Bihanga military training school after being given asylum in Uganda in 2013
Border towns show no resistance to troops, meant to force strongman president to step down peacefully after diplomacy failed
The head of Iraq's elite Counter-Terror Service, which has been doing most of the fighting in Mosul, as well as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Wednesday that the city's east bank had been "liberated".
Interstate Aviation Committee will analyze flight recorders of cargo plane that crashes Monday near Kyrgyz capital
Al-Qaeda linked militant group Al-Mourabitoun claims responsibility for attack on Malian military base
Mexican migrants are scrambling in an effort to reach the US before Trump takes over
The quakes, all measuring more than five magnitude, struck close to Amatrice, the mountain town devastated by an August earthquake that left nearly 300 people dead.
During his campaign, Trump said he would "bomb the shit" out of ISIL and claimed to have a secret plan to quickly defeat the group.