“We have collected 18 dead bodies from the scene of the clashes,” said Wario Godana, a resident of Helu village, where fighting between men armed with automatic rifles and machetes have forced hundreds to flee.
Fierce fighting between the Gabra and Borana ethnic groups broke out late Thursday in areas close to Kenya’s border with Ethiopia.
Clashes between rival cattle herding pastoralists in the region are common, with herders often carrying guns to protect their animals, but the recent fighting has been unusually heavy.
“Attackers have burnt down a school, people are fleeing,” said Amina Abdi, in a village outside Moyale.
Regional government official Isaiah Nakoru said he could confirm only five people had been killed.
“Five are dead, but the search is on going for the missing, among the dead is local chief,” said Nakoru.
“Security officers are combing the area for more bodies and to end the fighting.”
Northern Kenya was hard hit last year by one of the worst droughts for decades, with many herders losing the livestock on which they depend.