Kenya: Thousands displaced after attack, toll reaches 76

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NAIROBI, 14 July (IRIN) - At least 6,000 people have been displaced following brutal attacks that started on Tuesday by armed raiders on villages in the northern Kenyan district of Marsabit, relief workers said.

The death toll, the sources added on Thursday, had reached 76.

This included 20 children killed when the raiders attacked a local primary school, and 10 members of a church group killed in an apparent revenge attack on Wednesday.

"Initial indications are that 1,000 families - about 6,000 people - have been displaced," Farid Abdulkadir, the disaster preparedness and response director for the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told IRIN.

"There is a lot of movement [of people] and the situation is still unstable," he added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that an estimated 1,000 families affected by the attacks needed emergency assistance.

"Priority needs are for health, temporary shelter and food," OCHA said. "The [Kenya] ministry of health has appealed for medical oxygen [and] cylinders, sutures and dressing materials, blood transfusion equipment and assistance for medical evacuation of critical patients."

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, on Wednesday condemned the incident.

"I deplore this horrific attack against civilians, the majority of whom were innocent women and children," Egeland said in a statement. "The direct targeting of a school is particularly reprehensible."

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki also condemned the killings and gave an assurance that the wounded would receive medical attention, his press office said.

"As citizens who seek peace we condemn the attacks on innocent civilians," Kibaki said. He added that the government had embarked on a security operation to track down the perpetrators of the attack.

Abdulkadir said the KRCS had delivered an initial consignment of 50 tonnes of maize meal, beans and cooking oil to help those affected by the attack. The agency had also taken medical supplies, including surgical kits and antibiotics, to treat some of the injured.

He said nine seriously wounded survivors were airlifted to a hospital in Nairobi, and the KRCS was making arrangements to fly two other casualties to the capital.

Police said 66 of the dead were civilians who perished on Tuesday when assailants, believed to be members of the Borana community, launched their attacks on villages inhabited by the Gabra ethnic group in the Turbi location of Marsabit, 580 km north of Nairobi.

The church members killed in a suspected revenge attack were ambushed at Bubisa trading centre, 80 km north of Turbi, police said. A parish priest who was driving them was spared "because he did not belong to any of the warring communities", Kenyan media reported.

On Wednesday, Kenyan security forces pursued the raiders towards the Ethiopian border, killing 10 of the attackers in an exchange of gunfire.

"Ten of the victims were slaughtered on Wednesday in what is believed to have been a revenge attack by members of the Gabra against the Borana," Robert Kipkemoi Kitur, the assistant commissioner of police in charge of operations in Eastern Province, said.

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, which 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 March 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 in January killed and 2,000 displaced in Mai Mahiu, in western Kenya's Nakuru district, following violent clashes between two ethnic communities over water.


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