NAIROBI // At least 48 Kenyans were hacked or burnt to death in ethnic clashes between two rival groups, the worst attack since post-election violence four years ago.
The attack took place late on Tuesday between the Pokomo and Orma peoples in the rural Tana River district. "It is a very bad incident ... [The dead] include 31 women, 11 children and six men," the regional deputy police chief Joseph Kitur said yesterday. "Thirty-four were hacked to death and 14 others were burnt to death."
Several huts were torched after a gang of men launched the attack, he said, the latest in a long history of bitter clashes between the rival groups in the remote area of Kenya.
It was not clear what sparked the attack, but the two communities have clashed before over land and water resources, although the scale and intensity of the killings shocked police.
The attack happened in the Reketa area of Tarassa in Kenya's south-east, close to the coast.
In 2001, at least 130 people were killed in a string of clashes in the same district and between the same two communities about access to land and a river.
"Clashes over pasture have been recurrent in this region," said Eric Kiraithe, the national police spokesman.
The Pokomo are a largely settled farming people, planting crops along the Tana River, while the Orma are largely cattle-herding pastoralists.
"Our investigations have shown that it is the Pokomo who attacked the Orma people, who live on an island" in the river, Mr Kitur said.
Danson Mungatana, who represents the area in parliament, said the killings were "revenge attacks", adding there had been a string of tit-for-tat killings, attacks and cattle raids this month, though on a far smaller scale.
"There have been problems simmering for a while ... About 10 days ago three Pokomo were killed by the Orma community," he said.
"In revenge, the Orma raided villages occupied by the Pokomo and burnt down more than 100 houses. Now the Pokomo have once again revenged by killing about 50 people. These are purely revenge attacks."