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'50 burned to death in Kenya church'

Red Cross volunteers said a mob torched a church sheltering hundreds of people fleeing post-election violence, killing up to 50 people.

world Updated: Jan 02, 2008 12:22 IST

A mob torched a church sheltering hundreds of people fleeing post-election violence on Wednesday, killing up to 50 people, including many children, as four days of rioting and ethnic clashes marked one of the darkest times in Kenya's history.

President Mwai Kibaki, sworn in on Sunday after a vote opponents said was rigged, said political parties should meet immediately and publicly call for calm. The violence has killed at least 270 people in what had been east Africa's most stable and prosperous democracy. The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, said he would refuse to meet.

"If he announces that he was not elected, then I will talk to him," Odinga told The Associated Press in an interview. He accused the government of stoking the violence and said Kibaki's administration "is guilty, directly, of genocide."

The violence has erupted throughout Kenya, from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast, exposing tribal resentments that have long festered in the country. Kibaki's Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest ethnic group, are accused of using their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others.

The church fire in Eldoret, some 300 kilometres from the capital, killed at least 50 people, said a Red Cross volunteer who counted the bodies and helped the wounded. But she asked that her name, which would identify her tribe, not be published, saying gangs were even checking on the tribal affiliations of aid workers.