Police linked to mass executions

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More than 450 young Kenyan men have been executed in the last five months, according to a report from a state-funded national human rights group whose head also questioned why police had not stopped the killings.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights linked the slayings to a war between police and a violent street gang accused of a string of beheadings and fatal shootings earlier this year.

The state-funded commission's preliminary report stopped short of directly blaming the police for the deaths, but said the notoriously corrupt force was linked by "circumstantial evidence."

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe slammed the allegation as "total nonsense." He declined to comment on the commission's figure of 454 Kenyans killed in execution-style murders, but scores of deaths had been reported in a police crackdown on the gang, accused of killing of at least 27 civilians and 15 police officers since April.

The human rights group said the majority of the deceased were shot in the head before being deposited in mortuaries around the country. The victims were all from Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and lived in the tribe's traditional strongholds north of Nairobi and several slums in the capital.

The violent Mungiki gang, an outlawed quasi-political sect, draws its support from thousands of unemployed Kikuyu youth. Mungiki, whose name means "multitude" in Kikuyu, has been linked in recent years to extortion, murder and political violence. Its members also promote traditional Kikuyu practices, including female genital mutilation.

"The obvious question to ask is, if the police are themselves not responsible, why have they been unwilling or unable to investigate and curb the killings?" said the commission's chairman, Maina Kiai. He said police had been lax in following up tips passed on by residents, and refused to collect some of the bodies after their presence had been reported, leaving them to hyenas and other wild animals.

"Which citizen or organized criminal group would have the wherewithal and courage to ferry corpses for dumping on our roads, which are mounted with police checks after every few kilometers on a 24 hours basis?" asked Kiai.

During its investigations, the commission said it had met at "all layers of the police hierarchy with obfuscation, stonewalling, disinterest and outright denial of any knowledge of the killings and dumping of the bodies."