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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Kenya slum turned into ghost town
Residents of Mathare slum lie dead on the ground
Mungiki members had threatened to behead more people
The sprawling Mathare slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, home to nearly half a million people has been transformed into a near ghost town.

Many residents have fled their homes following a three-day operation by police and paramilitary unit searching for adherents of the outlawed Mungiki sect in the maze of dirt roads and wooden shacks.

Dozens of youths and women suspected to be members or sympathisers of the banned sect were bundled into police trucks and driven to police stations across the city for interrogation.

More than 30 people have been killed during shoot-outs with police in Mathare this week after two policemen were killed and their guns stolen.

Mathare is believed to be a stronghold of the Mungiki.

'Difficult to identify'

Heavily armed police have been breaking doors and dragging out people from their homes during a hunt for guns and Mungiki followers.

Mungiki suspects bundled into police truck
Many residents have fled the Mathare slum

"We know that Mungiki people live here in the slum but it is difficult to identify them," Mathare resident Kamau Njuguna told the BBC.

Police have been ordering people to kneel or lie on the muddy ground before frisking them for weapons and illicit drugs.

"I really regret living in the slums, we have been beaten thoroughly by police just for asking questions and we are not Mungiki followers," said Moses Omondi.

The police have also demolished several shacks, as they look for weapons, hauls of cannabis and home-made alcohol brew, a common merchandise in Mathare and other slums in Nairobi.


"Please don't destroy my house, please give me two days to leave the country," pleaded Wanasolo William, 30, originally from Uganda, as police knocked down his shack made from wood and iron sheeting.

But a police officer said the houses had to be dismantled in the search for evidence.

Police kick slum resident
Kenyan police shot 12 Mungiki suspects on Thursday

"We have recovered a G-3 rifle and rounds of ammunitions and we believe this is one of our guns," Paul Ruto, the officer leading the operation told the BBC News website.

They also arrested a woman living in the house where the rifle was recovered but she denied having anything to do with it.

"I do not know where it came from, my husband works at a restaurant in town and I work in a salon in town. I am innocent, please do not arrest me," pleaded the middle-aged woman, as the police frog-marched her to a waiting van.

Deputy police commissioner Lawrence Mwadime says the force is experiencing problems because the slum dwellers are not ready to volunteer information.

"They do not want to volunteer vital information and we believe some are harbouring the criminals so we have to use our skills to get the suspects," Mr Mwadime told reporters.

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