[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Kenya police deny sect brutality
People packing their belongings onto a truck
Resident have been fleeing the Mathare slum
Police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have defended their operations against the banned Mungiki sect, amid accusation they used excessive force.

Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the police had to use force after officers came under fire in the Mathare slum.

He also confirmed that three more Mungiki suspects had been killed. More than 30 have died this week.

The secretive sect has threatened to step up its war in an anonymous e-mail sent to the media.

Mungiki members are accused of beheading more than a dozen people, including policemen, in Nairobi and parts of the central province in the past three months.

Last week, President Mwai Kibaki warned that Mungiki activities would no longer be tolerated and ordered a shoot-to-kill policy.

'Animals'

Residents have continued to flee Mathare, scene of this week's clashes.

Some 500,000 people normally live in the slum, which is believed to be a Mungiki stronghold.

KENYA'S SECRETIVE MUNGIKI
Mungiki  followers
Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

"We have arrested 250 suspects and the police are faced with a very grim situation where people were prepared to fire back. It is only unfortunate that some of the suspects were prepared to die fighting," Mr Kiraithe said.

Mr Kiraithe said residents were fleeing because they were afraid that police would not be able to protect them from the Mungiki.

Opposition leader Kalonzo Musyoka asked the government to stop the operations and instead negotiate with the Mungiki leaders.

"It appears to us that clearly they know about them because they have been funding them, why don't they talk to their very own people?" Mr Kalonzo asked.

But an e-mail purported to be from the Mungiki sect and made available to the BBC declares war on security forces and leaders who are supporting the crackdown.

"Kenyans must know, we have never killed indiscriminately, the ones killed have been previously warned. Now the government has changed the rules of engagement.

"You are fighting us as animals and we will become animals," the e-mail reads.

The Mungiki are thought to be militants from Kenya's biggest ethnic group, the Kikuyu.

Some commentators have linked them to politicians wanting to cause unrest and fear ahead of December elections.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A woman whose brother was arrested by the police





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific