World Bulletin / News Desk
A Kenyan politician arrested in connection with the murder of 65 people on the coast this month denied responsibility after a court freed him on bail on Monday.
Issa Timamy, the governor of Lamu county, was arrested last Wednesday over the gun attacks, which President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed on local political networks rather than the Somali rebel group al Shabaab which claimed responsibility.
"I am not responsible for those attacks. Why would I kill my own people in my own county? I am innocent and if they (police) think I actually committed the crimes, then they should not have released me," he told reporters outside the court.
Prosecutors said they still intended to charge Timamy with murder, forceful transfer of populations and terrorism related offences, over the killings in the Mpeketoni area of Lamu, the worst attacks since last September's al Shabaab raid on a shopping mall in Nairobi in which 67 were killed.
On Monday the judge declined prosecutors' request to detain Timamy for 14 days, and released him on bail of 5 million shillings ($57,000) cash or a bond of 20 million shillings.
Although attacks by al Shabaab in Kenya have grabbed international headlines, ethnic rivalries have festered for decades in Lamu and neighbouring Tana River where more than 100 people were killed in 2012 and 2013 in fighting over water and grazing land.
Suspicion has fallen on Timamy partly because he is from the local coastal community, while the attacks were directed at Kenyans from other ethnic groups who settled in the area from their ancestral homes in the hinterland decades ago.
Ethnic violence has erupted in the past in Kenya, notably after a contested 2007 election when about 1,200 people were killed in tribal clashes.
Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who was Kenyatta's main challenger in last year's presidential vote, has said talks are needed between the opposition and the government to discuss security failings and other problems.
The government has dismissed the demand, saying Odinga is trying to manufacture a crisis to claw his way back to office.
Kenyan Muslims called for his release
The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), an organization that represents the more than 11 million Kenyan Muslims, urged the release of Lamu Governor Issa Timamy, who was arrested in connection with mid-June's deadly attack in the coastal city of Mpeketoni.
“SUPKEM on behalf of Muslims demand that Governor Timamy be released unconditionally to ensure stability in the coast region,” SUPKEM Secretary-General Adan Wachu told Anadolu Agency on phone.
“We are courting a larger problem by detaining Governor Timamy. Reports from our offices in the region is clear that the locals are not happy at all with the developments," Wachu added, arguing that Timamy was used as a scapegoat.
"As long as he remains detained, animosity between the indigenous Lamu residents and settlers from other parts of the country will reach beyond help,” Wachu warned.
“This is the time that the people of Lamu need their leader. There are sensitive issues that need to be addressed in Lamu and this cannot be done while the governor is behind bars,” Wachu added.
Ten people have been arrested so far in connection with the attack, which the government blamed on "incitement" by local politicians – despite a claim of responsibility by Somalia's Al-Shabaab group.Last Mod: 30 Haziran 2014, 17:04