Civilians killed in raid on remote northern villages

Armed raiders attacked two remote villages in Marsabit district of northern Kenya on Tuesday, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens, including children, a police spokesman said.

"Our officers have established that 15 civilians and four of the bandits were killed in one of the manyattas [village]," the spokesman, Jaspher Ombati, said.

However, other sources said the death toll was much higher, adding that clashes had continued on Tuesday afternoon. The official Kenya Broadcasting Corporation radio reported 22 killed.

Ombati said police officers had been flown to the scene. "The area is very rugged and difficult to access so we sent a helicopter," he told IRIN.

Those wounded in the attack on Dida-Galgalo and Turbi villages included eight children who had been taken to Marsabit District Hospital, Ombati said. "They have gunshot wounds, but their condition is stable," he added.

Humanitarian sources said clashes pitted members of the Borana ethnic group against the Gabra community. The two communities have a history of feuding over pasture and water points, and often engage in revenge attacks.

The semi-arid territory near the Ethiopian border has a history of banditry and violent cattle rustling between the pastoralists who inhabit the area and who often fight over pasture and water points.

Clashes between communities in Kenya happen frequently. 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, which is 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.