Two members of the notorious Mungiki criminal gang, including the leader of the group's political wing, have been killed near the Kenyan capital.  As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, the gang had been planning to hold negotiations with the government.

The leader of the Kenya National Youth Alliance, the political arm of the infamous Mungiki gang was killed while driving north of Nairobi on Monday. Charles Ndung'u is thought to have been traveling to the town of Naivasha, where the leader of the Mungiki is being held in prison.

A spokesman for the political group blamed undercover members of a police squad for the killings. But the police say they are not carrying out such operations against the Mungiki. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe says the police are investigating the incident and they suspect that "thugs" were responsible.

The Mungiki caused havoc in and around Nairobi earlier this month when they blocked off major roads and warned public buses not to operate. That incident was provoked by the killing of the wife of the group's jailed leader.

The group has its roots as a quasi-religious sect from the Kikuyu community - Kenya's largest ethnic group. But it has evolved into a criminal outfit involved in extortion, particularly involving public minibuses, and is suspected of ties to Kikuyu politicians.

Police spokesman Kiraithe, says the group bears little resemblance to its earlier incarnation.

"If we can go by the original script of Mungiki then these are not Mungikis anymore," he said.  "Mungiki are people that wanted to worship traditionally in the way the Kikuyu usually did long ago. But these others are just camouflaging so that they can have a cover up to commit other crimes."

The Mungiki were blamed for a crime wave last year that included several beheadings.  Police responded by launching a crackdown on the group. Kenyan human rights organizations accused the police of widespread extrajudicial killings during the operation.

Members of the group had planned on beginning negotiations with the government, but those plans could now be in doubt.

In a separate development, the police say they have killed two criminals in Nairobi's Dandora slum on Tuesday.  A police commander told the AFP news agency that those killed were members of the Mungiki.  But police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told VOA that while one of those killed was a wanted criminal, no connections to Mungiki have been established.