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At least 24 killed as mob targets gang members

Video by Gulliver CRAGG , Pauline GODART

Latest update : 2009-04-22

At least 24 people were attacked and killed after local residents in the central Kenyan town of Karatina organised groups to attack members of the outlawed Mungiki gang, a violent Mafia-style organisation, police sources say.

AFP - At least 24 people were stoned and hacked to death when local residents in the central Kenyan town of Karatina formed posses to flush out the outlawed Mungiki gang, police said Tuesday.

 

The clashes started late Monday when residents organised in small groups armed with crude weapons decided to fight back against the Mungiki, a violent mafia-like extortionist group famous for beheading and skinning its victims.

 

"A total of 24 people are dead as we speak but we are not able to tell who is Mungiki and who is not," Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP. "It's a very bad scene."

 

"At night, the groups of locals started attacking some of the youths they suspected to be Mungiki members and slashed some of them to death," he said.

 

Police sources said at least three people were wounded and 37 suspected were arrested.

 

Kiraithe said the town and its surrounding turned into a battlefield as Mungiki regrouped and fought back.

 

"We understand that the Mungiki also regrouped and engaged the locals in an all-out war in the villages," he said.

 

"All of those killed were hacked or stoned to death. Our officers tried to restore order, otherwise the situation could have degenerated into something much worse than it is," the police spokesman added.

 

At dawn, police forces were attempting to impose order in Karatina. Kiraithe said they had collected machetes and other crude weapons from the scene.

 

"Some suspects have been arrested and we are hunting for more," he added.

 

At least 15 suspected Mungiki members were hacked, stoned or burned to death by mobs in the area over the past 10 days.

 

"Residents of the two divisions in Kirinyaga and Karatina appear to be tired of these illegal groupings and their activities," Kiraithe explained.

 

"Last week, they killed about 15 of them, but we are urging the locals to refrain from lynching suspects. They should hand them over to the police."

 

Karatina is north of Nairobi, one the road to the city of Nyeri, in the heartland of Kenya's dominant Kikuyu tribe.

 

The Mungiki, which means "multitude" in Kikuyu, claim to be a sect founded by Mau Mau fighters who fought British colonial rule.

 

Once a quasi-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals, the Mungiki were banned in 2002 after evolving into a powerful extortionist gang with ultra-violent methods.

 

After a drive by police and security forces to dismantle the gang in early 2007, human rights activists say the Mungiki were enlisted as a pro-government militia during the post-election tribal clashes that erupted in early 2008.

 

Police was also accused in a UN report on extrajudicial killings of executing dozens of Mungiki suspects and intimidating rights groups investigating the deaths.

Date created : 2009-04-21

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