Reuters International

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A suspected recruiter for the Somali militant group al Shabaab shot dead at least four Kenyan policemen in the station where he was being held on Thursday after he snatched a weapon from a guard, police said.

He was later killed by an elite squad, which specialises in hostage situations, after holding other prisoners hostage as police surrounded Kapenguria police station in west Kenya, officials said. The squad was flown in from Nairobi.

"The siege has finally ended," John Musiambu, the regional government coordinator, told reporters at the scene.

He said all the inmates in the police cell at the station were safe while one officer of the special squad was wounded.

The man was suspected of links to terrorism, police chief Joseph Boinnet said, without being more specific. The number of casualties was not clear, officials said.

Another police officer, who declined to be name, told Reuters at least four officers were killed and that figure could rise. He said the man was suspected of recruiting for al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab has launched a series of attacks against Kenya in recent years, including using local recruits. The group says the attacks are aimed at driving Kenyan forces out of Somalia, where they are part of an African force fighting al Shabaab.

Kenyan television channel KTN said as many as six officers had died in the stand-off in Kapenguria.

Boinnet said that police had also repulsed an attack by al Shabaab militants on a camp in the Lamu region of eastern Kenya, near the Somali border.

Several militants were believed to have been killed or escaped with severe injuries from that assault. He did not give figures.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa, Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi and Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa, Editing by Duncan Miriri and Angus MacSwan)

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 Reuters International