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17 killed in Kenya's rift valley region

world Updated: Mar 20, 2008 11:10 IST

Seventeen people were killed in Kenya's Rift Valley region, where cattle rustling has fanned tribal animosity, bringing the toll to 25, police said on Thursday.

Cattle raiders killed 12 villagers and police responded, killing five of the attackers in Baringo district at around 6.00 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, said regional police commander Joseph Ashimalla.

"Seven of those killed in Baringo are members of the same family while the other five are their neighbours who were shot as they responded to their distress call."

"Five others were bandits shot dead during an encounter with our officers last evening. Many others escaped with injuries. We are still pursuing them," Ashimalla added.

"It is unfortunate that innocent lives were lost. But we are pursuing the raiders," he added.

Ashimalla said at least 12 villagers, including four women, are admitted in Maralal district hospital, some of them with bullets lodged in their bodies.

The attack brings to 25 the number of people killed in the same ranges as a result of cattle rustling, which has ripped open animosity among competing pastoralist communities in the Rift Valley region.

Late Tuesday, raiders killed eight people in a nearby district.

The deaths were not directly linked to the disputed December 27 elections which set off unrest in the east African nation that has left 1,500 dead, but the political crisis has exacerbated many local feuds.

The dire economic impact of two months of tribal killings and police raids has also led to increased crime and heightened tensions between rival communities of herders and farmers.