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At least 7 dead in Kenya cattle rustling upsurge

By Staff
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NAIROBI, Apr 18 (Reuters) At least seven Kenyans have been killed, thousands have fled their homes and more than 9,000 animals have been stolen in a bloody upsurge of livestock rustling across the country, police said today.

Kenya in the last week has dispatched hundreds of police and soldiers to five remote Kenyan districts, from the Ethiopian border to the Great Rift Valley, where warring nomadic herders have engaged in a series of cattle raids and reprisals.

Media reports have said as many as 14 have been killed, more than a dozen injured and at least nine kidnapped over the past two weeks. Thousands have fled their homes fearing more violence, local officials said.

The drought that has threatened 11 million people in eastern African with famine has pushed rival pastoralist tribes even closer to the edge of survival, aggravating tensions over scarce pasture and water.

Such raids are particularly common along Kenya's porous borders with Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Sudan, and often spiral out of control as raids provoke increasingly bloody revenge attacks.

In Dukana, along the Ethiopian border, police spokesman Gideon Kibunja said Ethiopian officials had confiscated 1,100 camels, almost 5,000 goats, and seven cattle from Kenyan herders who had crossed the border in search of good pasture.

Kenya has formally asked for the return of the animals, which the Ethiopians said had been taken as compensation for an earlier raid by the Kenyans, Kibunja said in a statement.

In the Samburu district, Pokot tribesmen killed five people, stole nearly 1,500 cattle and as many sheep and goats from their rivals in the Samburu tribe. Two Pokots were slain in a revenge attack, Kibunja said.

Raids were also reported in Laikipia, Baringo and Marsabit districts, he said.

In the worst bout of such bloodshed in Kenya's recent history, a total of 80 people were killed near the northern town of Marsabit in July as ethnic Gabra villagers sought revenge after the rival Borana launched a grisly a cattle raid.

Last week, the problems were highlighted after a military plane carrying Kenyan politicians on a mission to reconcile and stop the cyclical violence crashed and killed 14 in Marsabit.

The northern regions have largely been neglected since colonial times, and government resources there are scarce - with often just a handful of police or soldiers to keep vigil over vast lands with few roads and many heavily armed tribesmen.

REUTERS SB KP2234

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