Thirty nine people died in renewed clashes between the Orma and Pokomo people in the Tana Delta. Hundreds more are reported injured in the fighting between the two communities. Reports say that over 100 militiamen from the Pokomo community mounted an early morning raid on the Orma village of Kipao where they killed the residents, majority of them who were still asleep.
Coast deputy police boss Robert Kitur, said among the dead are 13 children, six women and 11 men from the Orma community. Nine Pokomo raiders were also killed and 20 other people were injured.
Kitur said the raiders were armed with AK 47 and G3 rifles, petrol bombs, machetes and other crude weapons. He said the raiders were ferried from outside Tana River county.
"Intelligence information reveals that the attackers had undergone military training in readiness to carrying out the attack," said Kitur in Mombasa.
Kenya Red Cross Society said over 45 houses were torched but police insist only five houses were burnt. Survivors interviewed said the raiders were all wearing red bandanas.
Some of the those indued during the attack who included a two year old baby were admitted to Malindi general hospital by the Red Cross and other volunteers. Many suffered gunshot and machete wounds, said Mohammed Dhado, a clinical officer at the Oza dispensary where some of the injured were taken.
The injured, nearly all from the Orma community, were afraid of being treated at the Ngao hospital because of the animosity between them and the Pokomo.
The hospital is in an area where the Pokomo people are predominant. In August, over 100 people died whenthe two communities clashed in a dispute over Orma farmers grazing their cattle on land that the Pokomo say is theirs.
The Pokomo farmers and semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists have clashed intermittently for years over access to grazing, farmland and water.
Over 1,000 paramilitary officers were deployed in the Tana Delta following the attacks in August and September in which an estimated 12,000 people were displaced.
Their presence did not seem to reassure the residents many of whom accused the security agents of atrocities including rapes and beatings.
A disarmament campaign conducted in the area has since proven to be unsuccessful as many of the residents who are armed have refused to do surrender them.
Yesterday, Kitur said majority of the Pokomo people who were well armed with rifles and other weaponry were reluctant to surrender them.
"We only recovered 20 guns that were surrendered from the Orma community and from the Kenya police reservists within their community," said Kitur adding that this was a major setback in restoring peace in the county.
Galole MP and assistant Livestock minister, Dhadho Godhana was arrested and charged with incitement. He has denied the charges.
Defence minister Yusuf Haji who was also mentioned as having a hand in the clashes earlier in the year denied the allegations when he a appeared before the judicial commission of inquiry chaired by High Court judge Grace Nzioka.
He was acting Internal Security minister when the clashes occurred in August. The commission, whose term was extended by one month to allow it to complete its report, has held sessions in Mombasa, Hola and Garsen in Tana River and visited the sites of the clashes.
Others who have testified include Coast PC Samuel Kilele, provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli and Lands Commissioner Zablon Mabea. It will present its report on January 16.
Tensions between the two communities have escalated since the redrawing of political boundaries ahead of next year's general election.
Haji alluded to boundary dispute when he told the commission that he and his Ijara constituents were opposed to the current boundary between Tana River and Ijara being located some three kilometres from River Tana and want the border shifted to the middle of the river.
He said Constituency Development Fund money was used to compensate Pokomo farmers for crops destroyed by any cattle that strayed onto their farms.
Yesterday, Kitur confirmed that the clashes were 'political' and blamed unnamed politicians in the area of fueling the attacks over the disputed boundaries.