August 4, 2017 / 7:28 PM / 3 months ago

Kenya opposition say police raid offices, but witnesses deny it

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan opposition spokesman said police raided his alliance’s offices on Friday night, four days before elections – but the government quickly denied any raid had taken place, dismissing the report as “fake news”.

Watchmen working at the opposition alliance building in Nairobi also told Reuters there had been no raid - and guards in a building opposite said they had seen no sign of any raid.

Kenyans are preparing to vote for a president, lawmakers and local officials on Tuesday in an election already marred by online hoaxes and fake stories from all sides.

Kenyan media who initially reported the raid had taken place withdrew stories from websites soon after. Police could not be reached for comment.

The opposition official who reported the attack - Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga - later turned his phone off.

Voters were already jittery after the murder of a senior election official, and many have been leaving cities for the countryside, some fearing a repeat of violence following a vote in 2007.

Onyango had earlier said via phone and email that staff had been held at the offices for hours during the raid, and gave details on what the police were wearing and what weapons he said were used.

“This is fake news and grossly irresponsible,” said Dennis Itumbi, an online spokesman for State House.

Odinga is running against incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Aug. 8 polls.

This week Odinga has said the government can only win by rigging elections, and Kenyatta has challenged him to provide proof of his allegations.

A Reuters reporter who went to the office briefly spoke to three watchmen working at the Sifa Towers building, who denied there had been a raid. A man appeared, and said the guards couldn’t speak to the media. He refused to identify himself.

Four watchmen at the building opposite said none of them had seen any police raid that evening. None would give their names.

Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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