Police officers killed by mob as Kenya goes to the polls

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The Independent Online

Supporters of Kenya's opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga rained stones on plainclothes policemen as they arrived from the capital, Nairobi, incensed over reports of a vote-rigging plot on the part of President Mwai Kibaki. At least three policemen were killed, and another nine were in critical condition, the government said.

Mr Odinga, who leads by just one percentage point according to the most recent polls ahead of today's presidential election, said thousands of officers had been granted unlimited access to polling stations across the country to cram ballot boxes with millions of votes for his opponent. "They were issued each with 1,000 pre-marked ballot papers to be stuffed by them," Mr Odinga said. "I've appealed to President Kibaki to prevail on his agents against election rigging acts that could plunge this country into bloodshed."

On Tuesday, Kenyan television broadcast footage of busloads of police leaving Nairobi before dawn. Dozens of officers arrived in Migori, a town in Nyanza province dominated by Mr Odinga's Luo tribesmen and one in which he is almost guaranteed a majority. A mob set upon them as they patrolled the streets that night. Mr Kibaki's government denounced the killings, insisting that the deployment was a routine procedure to provide extra security for the election.

"The government has deployed over 65,000 security agents to all parts of the country, in keeping with the request by the Electoral Commission of Kenya, to ensure security during the voting process," said a presidential spokesman . "This is a process that has been undertaken in all elections since independence."

Kenya is expected to vote along tribal lines, and there is deep distrust between the country's largest tribe, the Kikuyu, who support Mr Kibaki, and the Luo, who back Mr Odinga. Seventy people have been killed in pre-election violence.