NAIROBI, 13 July (IRIN) - The death toll in an attack by armed raiders on remote villages in the northern Kenyan district of Marsabit rose to 55 on Wednesday, the police said.
At least 20 of the dead were children killed in an attack on a school. Ten were raiders killed by Kenyan security forces in an exchange of gunfire.
The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) was on Wednesday sending a helicopter with an assesment team and an assortment of medicines to Marsabit district hospital, where 18 injured civilians were being treated, KRCS spokesman Anthony Mwangi said.
The assistant commissioner of police in charge of operations in Eastern Province, Robert Kipkemoi Kitur, said security forces pursued the attackers following the dawn raid on the Dida-Galgalo area of Turbi location, 580 km north of Nairobi.
"According to the information we have, members of the Borana community attacked the Gabra in retaliation for an earlier attack," Kitur told IRIN. "Both have long-standing animosity."
Kitur said six Borana people were killed in June at Forone, near Kenya's border with Ethiopia.
Among those being treated in Marsabit hospital with gunshot and machete wounds were 12 children aged between three and 15 years.
However, a humanitarian source in the area said the death toll provided by the police was from just one of several areas attacked, suggesting the actual number of lives lost could be much higher. Thousands of people may have been displaced following the raid, the source added.
Kitur said a combined force of the police and the army had recovered 5,000 head of sheep and goats, 60 head of cattle, 10 camels and four donkeys stolen from the victims of the attack. He added that three helicopters were supporting the operation.
Kenyan security forces would seek help from their Ethiopian counterparts if the fleeing raiders crossed the border, Kitur said.
"We are also preparing to call a meeting of the joint border security committee," he added. The committee is made up of representatives of communities from both sides of the border.
The semi-arid territory near the Ethiopian border has a history of banditry and violent cattle rustling among the pastoralist communities living in the area, who often fight over pasture and water points.
Violent clashes between communities over land, pasture or water frequently occur in Kenya.
In March, an estimated 1,500 families fled their homes following the killing of 22 people by armed raiders in the northeastern district of Mandera.
The attack took place at El Golicha village near El Wak town, close to Kenya's border with Somalia. Police said the incident appeared to have been a revenge attack by one clan against another for an earlier raid.
In January, another 20 people were killed during inter-clan violence between the Murule and the Garre communities in Mandera.
Another 14 people were killed and 2,000 displaced from their homes in the Mai Mahiu area of Nakuru district of western Kenya in January, following violent clashes between two ethnic communities over water.
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