Nairobi — Four more bodies of police officers killed in Saturday's attack in Samburu were recovered on Thursday, five days after the massacre.
"Four bodies of police officers previously reported missing have been recovered," Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said in a statement.
This, according to independent sources in the area, brings to 46 the number of officers killed in the attack which occurred when police officers were ambushed as they pursued bandits from Turkana who had stolen animals in Samburu.
Disputed official figures from police headquarters placed the initial death toll at 32 before the four more bodies were found. Three other officers still remain missing.
On Thursday, a contingent of police officers sent to Suguta Valley to search for bodies of the missing officers reported hearing heavy gunfire and immediately called for reinforcements fearing a fresh attack.
They however managed to recover the four bodies but did not encounter any hostility.
Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito said more than 600 police officers had been deployed to track the bandits and recover firearms they stole from the slain officers.
The military has joined the security operation after the National Security Council chaired by President Mwai Kibaki ordered the deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces to flush out the bandits, but the move was criticised by Turkana leaders on Thursday.
A statement issued from the Office of the President on Tuesday night said the council had "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."
The directive by the council followed the killing of police officers who were ambushed in Suguta Valley on Saturday as they searched for stolen cattle.
Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere told journalists earlier on Tuesday that the officers were ambushed as they headed for the security operation.
"The operational strategy was okay, but it is unfortunate because they were ambushed two kilometres from the manyatta they were headed to recover the animals. It appears the strategy leaked to the bandits," Iteere said.
Some civil society organisations led by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) called for Iteere's resignation, but he has vowed to stay put.
"I am not to blame; the nitty gritty of the operation strategy are left to the commanders on the ground. Those calling for my resignation are exercising their constitutional right. They are entitled to their opinion," he said.