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19 killed in attacks during Kenyan presidential election

Long lines at polling stations such as this one in Nairobi were common, with many citizens waiting hours to vote.

Dai Kurokawa/EPA

Long lines at polling stations such as this one in Nairobi were common, with many citizens waiting hours to vote.

MOMBASA, Kenya — Kenya’s presidential election drew millions of eager voters who endured long lines to cast ballots Monday, but the vote was marred by violence that left 19 people dead, including four police officers killed by machete-wielding separatists.

Officials urged voters not to be intimidated by the violence amid fears the impending election results could spark another round of the ethnic-related bloodshed in which more than 1,000 people died after the 2007 vote.

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The election is the first presidential poll under a new constitution designed to prevent such violence. Enthusiastic voters formed long lines around the country, and election officials estimated turnout at 70 percent of 14 million registered voters.

Official results are not expected until Tuesday or Wednesday. A run-off between the top presidential contenders is set for April unless one captures more than 50 percent of ballots from among the pool of eight candidates.

In the early vote count, Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister who has been accused by the International Criminal Court of financing death squads, held a lead of 56 percent to 40 percent over the second-place candidate, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister. Election observers cautioned that the preliminary results may not be representative of the countrywide vote.

The violence began before the polls opened when a group of 200 separatists set a trap for police in the coastal city of Mombasa in the pre-dawn hours, Inspector General David Kimaiyo said. Four police were hacked to death, coast police leader Aggrey Adoli said.

The separatist group — the Mombasa Republican Council — had threatened election day attacks, and Kimaiyo said police were planning a raid ‘‘that will see the end of the MRC.’’

The MRC believes Kenya’s coast should be an independent country. Their cause is fueled by the belief that leaders in Nairobi have taken the coast’s land for themselves, impoverishing indigenous residents.

In addition to the attack in Mombasa, police blamed the MRC for three deadly attacks in nearby Kilifi.

Six government officials, four MRC members, and two civilians died in the attacks near the coastal city.

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