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Ethnic Clashes Spread in Kenya

Police battled rampaging youths in western Kenya as ethnic clashes that have left more than 100 people dead in the past four days spread across the country. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has details about the latest flare-up of tribal violence that has killed nearly 900 people since elections last month.

Thousands of angry youths belonging to the Luo tribe poured out of slums in Kisumu in western Kenya and rampaged through the downtown area, setting shops on fire and barricading roads with burning tires.

They clashed with police, who threw tear gas and fired live rounds. Witnesses tell VOA that at least two people were shot and killed and dozens more wounded before the police regained control of the streets.

About 100-kilometers north of Kisumu, ethnic Luhyas in the town of Kakamega torched houses and several shops and businesses belonging to ethnic Kikuyus, who have been strong supporters of embattled President Mwai Kibaki.

The ethnic Luo and Luhya youths were said to be enraged over reports that police did little to stop recent violence that pitted members of Mr. Kibaki's ethnic Kikuyu tribe against ethnic Luos and other tribes living in the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha in central Kenya.

The violence, in which rival gangs fought with machetes, clubs, and bows and arrows, turned especially gruesome Sunday in Naivasha. The police say a mob of Kikuyus chased a group of Luos, including several children, into a house and set the building ablaze.

A businessman in Kisumu, Israel Agina, says that incident has triggered calls for revenge.

"After watching what happened in Naivasha and Nakuru, especially to their kids and kin who were being butchered in the presence of the police, they were very annoyed," he said. "The atmosphere is very, very tense. The youth are now being stopped from entering town. Part of the town is now deserted and people are not moving. The road out of Kisumu is barricaded."

Kisumu is home to opposition leader Raila Odinga, an ethnic Luo who accuses Mr. Kibaki of rigging last month's presidential vote. The election, which local and international observers said was flawed, touched off days of rioting and mayhem in Kisumu, Nairobi, and in other towns across Kenya.

The disputed election has opened up deep tribal divisions and rivalries over land, political power, and business that date back to Kenya's independence from Britain in 1963.

Although Raila Odinga is an ethnic Luo, his opposition party has been embraced by other tribes, such as the Luhya and the Kalenjin, as an alternative to what they perceive as decades of Kikuyu domination in the country.

After President Mwai Kibaki declared election victory, hundreds of Kikuyus were killed in attacks and tens of thousands of others chased from their homes in Nairobi, western Kenya and parts of the Rift Valley. On January 1, more than 30 ethnic Kikuyu women and children seeking shelter in a church in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, were burned to death by a mob of ethnic Kalenjins and Luos.

But Kenyans say members of the Kikuyu tribe have recently begun fighting back. On Sunday, the opposition charged that Kikuyu criminal gangs, including the outlawed Mungiki, are on a killing spree and working under police protection.

The government says the opposition has been orchestrating the ethnic violence in the region. It is now threatening to arrest top opposition leaders.