NAIROBI, April 20 – At least 15 people have been killed in Turkana district since Friday as police clashed with cattle rustlers who crossed into northern Kenya from Ethiopia, according to a police commander.
"There was an encounter with the raiders early this morning and officers killed 12 raiders in a fierce exchange of fire," he said, adding that another three rustlers were found dead near the frontier.
The commander, who requested anonymity, said that others may have died as well, as bloodstains had been detected along their escape route.
"We are still pursuing the raiders, we believe many of them were injured because we have discovered traces of blood in the footpaths into the forest whey they escaped to," he added.
The killings mark a new surge in cattle-related murders.
In 2006, a revenge attack by Ethiopia rustlers killed at least 77 Kenyan villagers, including 56 school children, in the worst-ever single episode of violence in the country’s post-colonial history.
The deaths brought to 42 the number of people killed this year in cattle-rustling and bandit-related attacks in Turkana district, which neighbours strife-torn southern Sudan and north-eastern Uganda.
Cattle rustling has increased in many arid regions in recent months as owners seek to restock herds badly affected by a searing drought across east Africa over the last three years.
Long-running disputes over access to water and pasture in the arid ranges have worsened inter-clan ties, complicating the government’s bid to restore stability in the dustbowl region.
Elsewhere, Egyptian police on Sunday shot and wounded two African migrants, including a Kenyan, who tried to cross the border illegally into Israel, a security official said.
"The two were shot after they ignored warnings to stop and began to climb over the barbed wire into Israel," the official told AFP.
Bemba Sin Bemba, 24, from Kenya was shot in the head and Ali Sid Beih, 23, from Mali was shot in the hip. Both are in critical condition, the official said.
On Thursday, police shot dead an Eritrean man and wounded two more people as they attempted the illegal crossing.
In recent months Egypt has arrested dozens of illegal immigrants, mostly Africans, trying to sneak into Israel from the Sinai in search of work. Several have been killed while trying to cross the frontier.