Kenya: At least 48 people die in ethnic clashes

Attackers armed with machetes, bows and arrows and spears locked villagers in their houses, set the structures alight and killed anyone who tried to escape, leaving at least 48 dead, Kenyan police and aid workers said yesterday.

The raid in Kenya's coastal region was part of a long-running dispute between the area's Pokomo and Orma groups over grazing land and water, said police.

"They were armed with crude weapons. Some had guns. As a result we have lost 31 women, 11 children and six men," area deputy police chief Robert Kitur said.

A Kenyan Red Cross official said they had counted 59 bodies. The group ferried more than 40 injured people to a hospital in Malindi, 93 miles away.

"Many of the injured are women and children with severe burns. Eleven have deep cuts on their heads and other body parts," the official said. About 100 raiders from the Pokomo attacked Rekete village, inhabited by Ormas, late on Tuesday, police said. The raid was said to have been in retaliation for an attack by Orma youths on Pokomo farmers which killed two people.

The long dispute between the two groups erupted after the farmers accused the semi-nomadic herdsmen of grazing cattle on their farms.

The Coast Province Commissioner, Samuel Kilele, said he had held a meeting with leaders from both groups last week which had appeared to resolve the dispute and he was shocked at the latest attacks.

"This is a case of our people who have decided to fight amongst themselves and unless they decide to resolve themselves, there is little we can do," he told reporters, speaking from his office in Mombasa.

"It's risky even for me. I cannot go there as an administrator and am forced to co-ordinate from here."