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Outlaw Gang Disrupts Kenyan Transportation

An outlawed gang in Kenya disrupted transportation in Nairobi and in other parts of the country, stranding thousands of commuters and causing long traffic delays. The protest by the banned Mungiki gang follows the release of a U.N. report that accuses the Kenyan police of carrying out extrajudicial killings of hundreds of suspected gangsters and criminals.

Police estimate that about 70 percent of the public minibuses used by Kenyan commuters were not operating Thursday morning. The drivers of the minibuses - known as matatus - say they had received warnings from the Mungiki to stay home or risk being beheaded.

Commuters in private cars sat for hours in traffic waiting for the police to clear stones, tires, trees, and other obstacles the Mungiki placed on various roads to disrupt the morning commute.

In some areas of Kenya, anti-riot police and paramilitary forces were deployed to root out gang members. Tony Mwangi, a journalist based in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, tells VOA that tensions there remain high.

"Most of the businesses are closed down," he said. "Transport is paralyzed. There are tons of policemen patrolling the main Naivasha-Nairobi-Nakuru highway."

In Nairobi, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the disturbance is directly related to a report released last week by the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston. The report criticized the Kenyan police for acting with impunity, especially against Mungiki gang members.

"The reason why the Mungiki is back to the activities of disrupting the lives of Kenyans illegally is because they got the strength when Professor Alston issued that brief that seemed to sanitize their illegal operations," he said.

The Mungiki has a long history in Kenya as a quasi-religious sect. But in 2002, it was banned after sect members began committing horrific crimes, including beheadings and mutilations. Its members are also accused of running extortion rings that target traders and matatu drivers.

The Alston report said that in response to a wave of killings in 2007 and 2008 blamed on the Mungiki, there is evidence that Kenyan police may have executed hundreds of suspects. The report says there is also evidence the police had formed death squads to carry out the extrajudicial killings.

The government angrily rejected the U.N. report, and it has yet to respond to Alston's call for the national police commissioner and the attorney general to step down from office.