Thousands of students protested against alleged police killings in Kenya on Tuesday and the demonstration slid into violence with shops ransacked, journalists beaten and officers pelted with stones.

In one of the worst bouts of political unrest since post-election violence at the start of last year, three shots were heard as the protest turned ugly in Nairobi city centre.

Police, who earlier took a low-key approach, moved in after the students began blocking roads, one with a petrol tanker. They also fired volleys of teargas to disperse one group.

The demonstration was the latest sign of widespread public frustration in Kenya with the coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

About 2,000 students poured into the centre of the capital from the University of Nairobi and Kenya Polytechnic, waving placards and chanting “Ali must go!” in reference to controversial police commissioner Hussein Ali.

Numbers quickly swelled to about 5,000, witnesses said, as slum dwellers, jobless and others joined the fray.

The demonstrators banged on cars, pulled up trees, smashed the windows of restaurants to grab food and drink, and beat half a dozen journalists with sticks. Police who tried to confront a group of protesters were met with a hail of stones.

“We supported their right to carry out a protest, but now they seem to be misusing their freedom,” Julius Ndegwa, deputy provincial police boss, told Reuters.


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