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Rival Groups Battle in Slums of Nairobi - 2002-03-04

In Kenya, 20 people have been killed and almost 30 injured in clashes between two rival groups in one of the slums in the capital, Nairobi.

The clashes involved members of an organization known as the Mungiki, a religious sect that is banned in Kenya, and a rival group of ethnic Luo.

The violence started late Sunday when three young men belonging to the Kikuyu ethnic group, the dominant tribe in the Mungiki sect, came into a slum in northeastern Nairobi looking for a taxi. Locals mistook them for thieves and lynched them.

Later, three minibuses carrying Mungiki sect members returned to the Kariobangi slum and started attacking people at random. Residents say the Mungiki, armed with machetes, clubs and hoes, attacked bars owned by ethnic Luo.

Police spokesman Peter Kimanthi said the attackers also broke into people's houses. "They were moving from door to door, flushing out people they suspected [of belonging] to the other group and slashing them with machetes," he said. "They were killed from their own houses by the raiders."

At this stage, a local Luo militia group that regularly patrols the Kariobangi slum was mobilized to fight the raiders.

Mr. Kimanthi said seven suspects have been arrested because of the clashes and will appear in court soon. He refused to give the tribal identities of the attackers or the victims.

The police have found it difficult to crack down on the Mungiki sect because very little is known about the group, except that its members usually wear their hair in dreadlocks and preach a return to traditional African values.