By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police said on Friday they shot and killed two armed men suspected of planning an attack on a ferry in the port city of Mombasa after one of them tried to hurl a grenade at approaching police.
Mombasa and the coastal region has been struck by a series of attacks that have killed dozens of people in recent months. The worst shootings have been on the north coast, but Mombasa has been hit by several bomb attacks.
Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group has claimed many attacks, but the government has blamed some of the north coast raids on local political networks, leaving many Kenyans confused about who is responsible and angry at security failures.
Police believe the two killed on Friday might have been planning to attack the busy Likoni ferry that plies the channel that lies between Mombasa and the south coast.
The men were traveling in a public minibus heading towards the ferry around the peak time of 6 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT) when they were approached by police.
“When they sensed police had cornered them, one drew a grenade and tried to detonate it, but he was shot and killed before he could do so. The other had a pistol and was also killed," Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa said.
"We think they may have been planning to attack passengers on the ferry,” he told journalists at the scene.
The Likoni ferry transports thousands of passengers daily from their homes on the south coast to Mombasa for work and back. It is also the main route for tourists heading to and from the airport to hotels on the popular southern beaches.
Several Western nations have warned citizens about travel to some areas of Kenya, including Mombasa. The attacks combined with advisories have hammered the once-vibrant coastal tourist industry.
“Today there would have been a tragedy on this ferry had the police not noticed these suspects and acted quickly. They have saved many lives,” Emmanuel Kimoto, a ferry guard, told Reuters.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)