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Residents Flee Kenya Slum Fearing Police Crackdown


Police in Kenya continue searching through a sprawling Nairobi slum, where they have been battling with members of the violent Mungiki sect for the past four days. Hundreds of residents have fled the violence, which has left more than 30 people dead. For VOA, Katy Migiro has this report.

On Friday, hundreds of people poured out of Nairobi's sprawling Mathare slum, which has been the epicenter of the bloody police crackdown on the Mungiki sect. The residents carried mattresses, furniture and sacks of clothes in handcarts and cars.

Many said they feared further violence, not from the Mungiki, but from the Kenyan police.

A woman who did not want to be named said that she was beaten by the police who believed that she was married to a member of the Mungiki sect.

"They are claiming my husband is Mungiki. I told them I don't have a husband," she said. "They beat me. They said I should say where is my husband and he's Mungiki."

The police operation in the Nairobi slum began on Monday night, following the deaths of two officers. Officials blamed the sect for the killings.

On Thursday, some 500 members of the paramilitary wing of the police, known as the GSU, and regular police officers cordoned off a section of the Mathare slum, barring anyone from entering or leaving the area for six hours. Men and women were separated and order to lie down in the dirt while they were frisked. Residents were told to help the police demolish shacks which the police said were known Mungiki hideouts. Twelve people were shot dead and around 200 were arrested.

David Kimaiyo, director of operations at Police Headquarter in Nairobi, denied that his officers have used excessive force.

The Mungiki are thought to be militants from Kenya's biggest ethnic group, the Kikuyu. Some have linked them to politicians wanting to cause unrest and fear ahead of December elections. The sect promotes such ancient tradtions as female circumcision which was outlawed in 2002.

Five former and current members of parliament were recently questioned by the police over Mungiki connections.

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