NAIROBI, (Reuters) – Armed cattle raiders killed at least 32 Kenyan police officers in a military-style ambush, officials said yesterday, calling it the worst attack on police in Kenya’s history.
Officers hunting down the cattle thieves in a remote northern region on Saturday came under machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades in an ambush the police said was conducted with “military precision”.
“We have recovered more bodies, we now have 32 in total. They were ambushed by attackers bearing sophisticated weapons, including machine guns,” Osman Warfa, provincial commissioner of the vast Rift Valley province, told Reuters.
The police were pursuing raiders from the ethnic Turkana community who had stolen cattle from the Samburu tribe, authorities said. The two groups frequently raid cattle from each other and fight over grazing land and watering points.
The violence has created security concerns ahead of a presidential election scheduled for March next year – the first since a disputed election in 2007 fuelled ethnic slaughter that killed more than 1,200 people and forced about 300,000 from their homes.
Warfa said some of the raiders were suspected of being former members of the security forces, now working as mercenaries. Authorities were searching for more bodies in the bushy escarpments where the raiders hide stolen cattle, he said.