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Published: Tuesday March 18, 2014 MYT 2:05:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 18, 2014 MYT 2:06:04 PM

Kenyan police arrest two men with bombs, suspected ties to militants

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police have arrested two men suspected of links to a Somali Islamist militant group after they were tracked and found to have two large bombs that may have been aimed for use in the area of the port city of Mombasa, a senior police officer said.

The two men were arrested on Monday and police said they could appear in court on Tuesday to face formal charges.

The Somali al Shabaab Islamist group has claimed several attacks on Kenya in the past. After a September raid by gunmen on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed at least 67 people, the group said it planned more attacks. The coast, which is popular with tourists, has been a target.

Al Shabaab have demanded that Kenyan troops withdraw from Somalia where they have been fighting the Islamist rebels.

"Our first suspicion is that they are al Shabaab especially because of their origin," Robert Kitur, Mombasa police chief told Reuters, adding one man was Somali and the other was a Kenyan of Somali origin.

Kenya, which neighbours Somalia, has a large community of ethnic Somalis.

Police recovered two large improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or hand-made bombs, from the men, Kitur said. "We suspect they were planning to detonate them somewhere around Mombasa," he added.

"If they had detonated, they would have caused massive destruction," Kitur said, adding police also found mobile phones which could have been used as detonators.

Police had trailed the suspects after intercepting telephone communications they were making with suspected accomplices in Somalia, Kitur said.

The provincial police headquarters in Mombasa was sealed off as bomb experts from the Kenya Defence forces took over to examine the explosives.

(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri and Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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