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18 killed in clashes between Kenyan police, Ethiopian raiders

Aug 27, 2006 (MARSABIT, Kenya) — At least 18 people were killed and several others wounded early Sunday when Kenyan security forces clashed with Ethiopian raiders rustling cattle, the Red Cross and police officials said.

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A Kenyan police reservist patrols in Marsabit, northern Kenya, 14 July 2005.

The fighting erupted in remote border villages of Dukana in North Horr constituency after hundreds of heavily armed bandits crossed the border and raided the villages, stealing thousands of livestock, they said.

“Reports we are getting from the ground indicate that 18 people were killed, including the bandits,” the Kenya Red Cross Society secretary general Abbas Guled said, after receiving the wounded who were flown to the capital.

Guled said initial reports indicated that most of those killed were raiders, who were armed with assault rifles and various crude weapons.

“Of the dead, we are told 17 were bandits and one was a Kenyan villager,” he said, explaining that it was hard to get the exact figure of the wounded owing to the remoteness of the region.

But earlier, police said seven Kenyan villagers had been killed in the predawn raid, the latest in a series of similar attacks in the vast area that lies near the volatile regions of Somalia, northeastern Uganda, southern Sudan and southern Ethiopia.

“At least seven people were shot dead and two injured in North Horr by the raiders who are believed to have come from Ethiopia,” a police official said in Marsabit town, about 430 kilometres (270 miles) northeast of Nairobi.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the government had deployed security forces to pursue the attackers who are believed to have crossed the border into southern Ethiopia, where the separatist Oromo Liberation Front rebels are based.

Marsabit district commissioner Mutea Iringo confirmed the deadly attack, and said he had sent “officers to go and beef up security and confirm casualty figures”.

Witnesses told police that hundreds of the villagers were fleeing the region for fear of fresh attacks.

Local officials said tensions remained high in the area, which has been blighted by internecine clan feuds, with the predominantly pastoralist tribes in the dustbowl region fighting each other for access to scarce pasture and water points.

“It is true a village in North Horr was raided in a pre-dawn attack. As of now, tension remains high and many people are fleeing there to safer areas,” said the North Horr member of parliament Ukur Yattani.

Cattle rustling and cross-border raids are endemic in the region and the Kenyan authorities have stepped up security in a bid to halt them.

The frequency of such raids has increased in recent months as pastoralists seek to restock livestock herds that were badly affected by a searing drought across east Africa this year and last.

In the last three months, at least 100 people have been killed in what officials say is a prolonged conflict between the ethnic Borana from southern Ethiopia and their Gabra rivals in northern Kenya over unsettled scores linked to a deadly scramble for resources.

(ST/AFP)

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