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Turkana Residents Fear Reprisals for Police Deaths

Residents of the Baragoi area of Samburu district of Kenya are fleeing their homes amid government vows of reprisal for Saturday’s attack which saw dozens of policemen killed by bandits.

The police mounted an operation following an alleged cattle raid by Turkana raiders, who reportedly stole cattle from Samburu tribesmen. When the Samburu sent warriors to recover their lost cattle the Turkana are believed to have killed 12 of them.

This weekend between 34 and 42 (there are conflicting reports of the final death toll) police officers and reservists were killed when they were ambushed as they chased bandits into the Suguta Valley. The valley has been described as the perfect spot for an ambush as those familiar with the area are able to take the high ground and pick off anyone entering the valley. Bandits did just that to officers they gunned down with automatic weapons this weekend.

Turkana villagers are said to be leaving the Lemerok village in order to avoid getting caught in the crossfire when the government seeks justice for the fallen police officers. The Kenyan government has sent the army into the area in order to seek justice for the dead and bring an end to the cattle theft.

Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere delivered a thinly veiled threat to the bandits following the incident, saying: “These are things that should never happen. I think they were testing the waters and very soon they will know the depth of the river.”

Mathew Iteere (NOOR KHAMIS Reuters)

NOOR KHAMIS Reuters

Kenya’s police commissioner Mathew Iteere

A statement from the Presidential Press Service said the National Security Council, chaired by President Mwai Kibaki, said: “In this connection, the Council authorised the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to be deployed in Samburu County and other areas to provide support to Kenya Police Service in apprehending the bandits and recovering stolen animals and arms.”

According to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper Prime Minister Raila Odinga condemned the attacks and assured that the government would deal with those responsible.

Odinga said: “We do not condone such incidents especially now that the country is gearing up for a General Election. Decisive action will be taken to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of such incidents.”

The violence has come as an unwelcome reminder of the election violence of 2007 and 2008, this, just months before the scheduled March 2013 elections. By the time a unity government was formed in February 2008 tens of thousands of people had been displaced and the death toll was over 1000 people.

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