News / Africa

Kenyan Ambush Death Toll Rises

Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
x
Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
Gabe Joselow
Officials in Kenya now say at least 42 police officers were killed in an ambush Saturday, as more bodies have been recovered.  Police believe cattle rustlers were behind one of the most shocking attacks in the country’s modern history.

Family members of the slain police officers waited at Wilson Airport in Nairobi Tuesday for the bodies to be returned, four days after the ambush in Samburu County.

The long, anxious wait has added insult to grief, particularly to Muslims here who say their religion requires them to bury the bodies as soon as possible.

Harun Mohammed Yusuf, whose cousin was among those killed, says the government has failed at every step.

“And we are worried about the capacity of the government and whether it was negligence or whether it is a sheer failure of logistics," Yusuf said. "Because if the government was not capable of equipping its soldiers to defend its community and its people, does it mean it does not even have the capacity to lift the dead?

Police entered into an area known as the Suguta Valley by truck Saturday ahead of an operation to recover stolen animals.  But officials say the gunmen were waiting in the hills, and overpowered the security forces with automatic weapons.

In addition to those killed, at least nine other police officers were injured, while several others are still unaccounted for.

Violence over resources in Kenya’s remote regions is not uncommon, but an attack on government forces of this magnitude is nothing short of shocking.

Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
x
Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe, speaking to reporters at Wilson Airport, said police will resume their hunt for those responsible.

“The search and rescue will continue until we are very, very satisfied that the area has been thoroughly covered and then the operation will continue because by any means and by any circumstances, the perpetrators of this kind of action can not be left to go unpunished,” he said.

At the heart of the violence is an ongoing conflict between the pastoralist Turkana and Samburu people.

Police were pursuing heavily-armed Turkana cattle rustlers, who are said to have led the ambush.

Abdullahi Halakhe, a Kenya researcher at the International Crisis Group, says the problem is that for too long, the government has had little presence in the area.

“There is an absence of state," he said. "So there is an ungoverned space there, which is a carryover from the colonial era where the pastoralist communities, or areas where the pastoralists were occupying, were never considered economically viable and as such the government never invested.”

He says that has all changed since the discovery of oil in the area, which is forcing the government to reconsider its relationship with the Turkana people.

While the weekend assault will likely set back efforts to re-engage, Halakhe said the government should avoid responding with more violence.

“This is not a very responsible government, particularly the security apparatus, so we have to monitor how they will react," he said. "I'm not sitting here and saying, you know, these guys should be handled with kid gloves.  But at the same time, there should be a proportional response, it should be within the law.”

The attack also raises concerns about Kenya’s ability to control violence that could arise around the time of the presidential election in March.  More than 1,100 people were killed in post-election violence after the last poll in 2007.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More