Kenya poll registration centre attacked

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iol pic afr dadaab region Kenya AFP File photo: A worn flag belonging to Medecins Sans Frontieres flutters over refugee shelters on October 16, 2011 from an abandoned clinic run by the same non-governmental organization.

Insurgents in Kenya's giant Dadaab refugee camp set off a bomb at a centre registering voters for Kenya's March 2013 elections, an AFP reporter and Kenya's Red Cross said on Friday.

The blast, in the world's largest refugee camp complex of Dadaab in the remote north-east bordering Somalia, home to over 468 000 Somali refugees, injured one person, Kenya Red Cross officials said.

Kenya has suffered a string of attacks in recent months - including grenade and bomb explosions - but this is the first attack on an election centre.

The attacks are regularly blamed on members or sympathisers of Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters, although they have made no claim to the series of blasts, which escalated after Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last year.

Police have since launched a tough crackdown focussing largely on refugees, including mass arrests sweeping up young men of Somali origin suspected of being connected to the attackers.

Earlier this week Kenyan officials ordered all refugees to return to remote refugee camps, including over 33 000 Somali refugees living in the capital Nairobi.

However, more than 2.3 million Kenyans are ethnic Somalis, some six percent of the population. Their traditional homelands make up around a fifth of the country, and many live around the Dadaab region.

Tensions are already high across the country ahead of elections due in March, five years after deadly post-poll killings that shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability.

The heavy handed police crackdown risks alienating Kenya's ethnic Somali community, adding to existing areas of concern ahead of the elections, including a coastal separatist movement, militant Islamists and tensions between ethnic groups.

Voter registration closes on Tuesday evening. - AFP


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