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Kenyan Election Rioting Deaths Exceed 250

From the poll watchers at Reuters:

Kenya deaths seen at 250

By Daniel Wallis and Wangui Kanina

NAIROBI (Reuters) – A mob torched a Kenyan church on Tuesday, killing villagers cowering inside, as the death toll from ethnic riots triggered by President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election soared to nearly 200.

The opposition said around 250 people had died.

In the most grisly incident, about 30 people died when fire engulfed a church near Eldoret town where scores of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe had taken refuge in fear of their lives

Police, reporters and a senior security official said the blaze at the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church was deliberately started by a gang of youths.

Witnesses said charred bodies, including women and children, were strewn about the smoldering wreckage.

“This is the first time in history that any group has attacked a church. We never expected the savagery to go so far,” police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

Reinforcements were being rushed to the area to arrest all troublemakers “regardless of their status in society,” he said.

“Our officers are exercising a lot of restraint in maintaining the law. This restraint will not last for ever.”

Residents and a security source said the victims had sought safety at the church, about 8 km (5 miles) from Eldoret.

“Some youths came to the church,” said a local reporter from the scene. “They fought with the boys who were guarding it, but they were overpowered and the youths set fire to the church.”

The explosion of violence in one of Africa’s most stable democracies and strongest economies has shocked the world and left Kenyans aghast as long-simmering tribal rivalries pitch communities against each other.

Leading local newspaper, the Daily Nation, feared Kenya was on “the verge of a complete melt-down.”

Police were out in force in the capital on New Year’s Day, and the streets were quieter. But details emerged of a rising death toll and widespread destruction in one of the country’s darkest moments since 1963 independence from Britain

A senior security official in Rift Valley said that as many as 15,000 people were now sheltering from the latest violence in churches and police stations in Eldoret.

He blamed the opposition for incitement.

“We have lived together for years, we’ve intermarried, we have children, but now they’ve asked them to turn against them,” the security official said. “We don’t do this in Kenya. It is what happens in Yugoslavia and Sudan.” …

So the police are only now threatening to crack down?

What are they waiting for?

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, January 1st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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