Police say 24 killed in central Kenya

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The Independent Online

At least 24 people have been killed in central Kenya in fighting between villagers and members of a banned sect, police said today.

The residents of a village near the central Kenyan town of Karatina fought members of Mungiki because they have been extorting money from them, said Charles Owino, the deputy police spokesman.

"What I know is that majority of the dead are Mungiki members," Owino told The Associated Press.

In a statement, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said three people have been seriously injured in the violence and police have arrested 37 suspects. Police took machetes, axes and clubs from the suspects, Kiraithe said.

Initial investigations have found residents reacted when Mungiki tried to expel people who came from a neighbouring district, Kirinyaga, because members of Mungiki had been lynched in Kirinyaga, Kiraithe said.

Kiraithe urged members of the public to stop "using criminal violence to resist crime."

Banned in 2002, Mungiki is known for beheading some of its victims. It claims to have 2 million members in central Kenya and the Rift Valley Provinces, and advocates a return to tribal traditions and customs. Most of its members are from Kenya's largest tribe, the Kikuyu.

The overnight violence took place in an area populated mainly by Kikuyus.