At least seven people including one police officer have been shot dead in gun battles after gunmen attacked a Kenyan coastal casino, police said.
Aggrey Adoli, regional police chief, said on Thursday that a large group of men - who he claimed were members of coastal separatist group Mombasa Republic Council (MRC) - had attacked a casino in the town of Malindi, a popular Indian Ocean tourist resort.
"Six of the attackers were shot dead but they also killed one of our police officers," Adoli told AFP news agency. There were no reports that any tourists had been harmed in the attack.
"There was a raid by MRC attackers at Malindi casino earlier this morning at 2:00 am by a gang of about 100," Adoli said. Four police officers were at the casino when the raid took place, he added.
"There was a raid by MRC attackers at Malindi casino earlier this morning at 2:00 am by a gang of about 100."
- Aggrey Adoli, regional police chief
"There was a fierce shoot-out outside the casino, because they wanted to try to get in but they were repulsed," Adoli said. The officers had arrested four people, he added.
"We have a contingent of police officers looking for the attackers, we suspect they are hiding in forests around Malindi."
Malindi, some 95km north of Kenya's main port city of Mombasa, is home is several top-end international tourist resorts.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's former prime minister, has visited the palm-fringed resort several times.
Kenya's billion-dollar tourism industry is the East African nation's second biggest cash earner after horticulture.
The MRC, a group seeking the secession of the coastal region, were blamed for a series of attacks just hours before Kenya's March 4 general elections in which at least 12 people were killed.
The MRC claims that the predominantly Muslim coastal region is not part of Kenya and argues that it has been neglected by the central government.
Several Western embassies have issued warnings to their citizens to take care over the weekend, as the country waits for a ruling by the Supreme Court on a legal challenge to the validity of the March 4 polls.
The court has until Saturday to decide whether Uhuru Kenyatta - who was declared the winner of the polls - should be confirmed as Kenya's new president or whether new elections should take place.