Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dozens killed in Kenya violence

Security officers at the scene where 26 people were killed Monday night by suspected Mungiki sect members in Gathaithi village, Nyeri East district. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI

Security officers at the scene where 26 people were killed Monday night by suspected Mungiki sect members in Gathaithi village, Nyeri East district. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI  

By PATRICK NZIOKA and JOHN NJAGI

At least 26 people have been killed in Monday overnight clashes between residents on the border of two villages in central Kenya and suspected Mungiki members.

The sect members struck two villages on the border between Kirinyaga and Nyeri districts and killed 26 people in retaliation after a week in which more than ten of their members were killed in Kirinyaga area. A Nation team at the scene confirmed the body count, but a doctor at the local hospital put the figure at 29.

"We have so far received 29 bodies. Most of them have their arms chopped off," doctor David Ndegwa, at a hospital in Karatina, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Two were burnt to death in a house that the Mungiki set on fire and which they used to lure the people out of their homes at around 2.30 am Tuesday morning.

Those killed were locals as well as members of vigilante groups who responded to the distress call from the occupants of the house that was set on fire.

Central Provincial Police Officer John M’Mbijjiwe said several villagers were hacked to death.

“The attackers burnt the house so as to attract as many villagers as possible and then lay in wait for them and butchered them,” he said.

Eighteen of the people were killed at Gathaithi village while the other seven were abducted and hacked to death with machetes and axes at Kiaruhiu trading centre both in Nyeri East district.

Residents say tens of youths armed with pangas, axes and rungus raided Gathaithi and Kiaruhiu trading centres about one kilometre apart and butchered the victims using pangas and axes.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe has said investigations are underway and urged locals not to take the law into their own hands.

"The Kenya Police Force is treating the matter very seriously," he said.

The killings came a day after suspected Mungiki members attacked a matatu that was transiting from Kerugoya Town to Karatina at Jambo area, a few metres from a police road block near Karatina town along the Nyeri-Karatina highway.

Two people who included the driver of the matatu were injured and taken to Karatina district hospital.

Mr M’Mbijjiwe said 37 suspects who were arrested will be charged with the killings.

At Kiaruhiu trading centre, the Nation team counted seven bodies, all male, while at Gathaithi, where the massacre is believed to have started were at least 18 bodies some of them stashed in tea bushes.

The killings took place a few meters from the Wamuthambi River that divides Nyeri East and Kirinyaga West where villagers have killed at least 14 suspected Mungiki members who they accuse of extorting money from households, traders and matatu operators.

Distressed villagers could only watch in horror as Central Provincial Commissioner Japhter Rugut and the entire security team inspected the bodies that were later transferred to Karatina Hospital Mortuary.

The attack is the worst incident to have occurred in the area in the recent past in Mungiki related killings.

The outlawed sect is notorious for extorting money from matatu crew, collecting protection fees, kidnapping and murder.

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