MOMBASA - Eight people were killed when dozens of machete-wielding raiders struck a casino popular with tourists and local Italian residents in the coastal Kenyan town of Malindi early on Thursday morning, police said.

Armed officers shot dead six of the attackers suspected to be members of a banned coastal separatist group while two policeman were also killed, police official Ambrose Munyasia said.

A series of attacks blamed on the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has damaged the prospects for growth and investment along Kenya's coast, a major tourist draw, and in Mombasa, an economically vital port city.

"A gang of 50 MRC suspects armed with machetes and other crude weapons raided a casino in Malindi and started attacking patrons before police were called," Munyasia told Reuters from the city of Mombasa, about 120 km south of Malindi.

He said it was not immediately clear if any of the casino's guests had been hurt.

Mounting insecurity on the resort-packed region will be a pressing issue for Kenya's next president after an election earlier this month whose result is still being challenged in the country's supreme court.

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