NAIROBI (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed at least eight Kenyan police officers in Turkana county in the northwest of Kenya early on Saturday, with another 12 officers were feared dead, police said.
Two civilians were also killed, the police said, but did not provide details on their identities, nor did it say anything about a possible motive for the attack.
Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land are common in arid areas of east Africa and these can escalate. An influx of weapons from abroad, in particular from Somalia, has intensified the ferocity of these conflicts in recent years.
“The police officers who were involved in a security operation in Kapedo area in Turkana County were ambushed by an unknown number of armed raiders,” police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said in a statement.
“The officers engaged the raiders in a fire fight which resulted in the death of eight officers and two civilians. Twelve officers are missing and feared dead.”
Mwinyi said reinforcements had been sent to the area to help with pursuing the attackers. The attack comes one week after bandits in the same area targeted a vehicle ferrying examination materials to a school in the region.
Kenyan television stations reported that the number of dead police officers stood at 22 and that a truck they were traveling in was burned down.
In November 2012, armed cattle raiders killed at least 32 police officers in an ambush in Samburu in northern Kenya, described as the worst attack on the country’s police.
Last year more than 100 people were killed in Kenya’s Tana River area when two rival communities fought each other for weeks over land and water resources. The police said the clashes were incited by local politicians.
Reporting by Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi and Noor Ali in Isiolo; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky