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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 21:53 GMT
Shock and fear after Kenya church attack
By Karen Allen
BBC News, Eldoret

Man at scene of smouldering remains of Assemblies of God Church in Eldoret
Political tensions have brought ethnic divisions to the surface
Two bodies lay on a dirt track outside the shattered remains of a church.

The victims - a man and a woman, he had been clubbed to death with a machete, she died of massive burns.

Seventeen bodies were packed on to Red Cross trucks, 13 young children among the dead.

Patrick Nyongesa of the Kenyan Red Cross said his staff had been stunned by what has happened here and are now being offered counselling.

"In Kenya we have never seen this, especially in a church compound. It is the first time we have experienced something of this magnitude," Mr Nyongesa said.

Hundreds of people had sought sanctuary in the church in Kiambaa, situated on the outskirts of Eldoret, one of the more prosperous Kenyan towns, known for its horticulture and dairy farms.

Role reversal

As members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu community, the people in the church felt vulnerable after Sunday's contested election result, worried that those who believed it was rigged would take revenge on the president's own ethnic group.

We have never seen anything like this before - these were friends of ours before the election, now they are trying to kill us like dogs

Those fears have been borne out. Two days later more than 30 people lay dead in what has undoubtedly been one of the most violent attacks in the aftermath of this election.

A country that has a proud history of securing peace for its volatile neighbours now finds its role reversed, with diplomatic pressure for peace to be restored.

Twisted metal sheets are all that remain of the torched church, the embers are still glowing in places and debris has been strewn all around.

There are still blankets, mattresses, shoes and child bicycles; scores of them. Hundreds of people were packed into the church seeking refuge.

Living in fear

Sifting through possessions we stumble across a woman who had escaped. She had sheltered in the church, along with her three children.

She spoke of the minutes before the blaze began. Attackers dragged in mattresses doused in petrol and set them alight. The door to the church was bolted to prevent people running out.

Woman weeps outside the Assemblies of God Church in Eldoret
Ethnic groups other than the Kikuyu are now seeking shelter
She told how she managed to scramble through an open window with her three-year-old daughter in her arms.

But when the little girl reached safety the attackers outside flung her back into the flames.

"We have never seen anything like this before, burning churches. These were friends of ours before the election, now they are trying to kill us like dogs," she said.

By nightfall in the town of Eldoret, the main police station was packed. Hundreds of families flocked to the compound, reassured by the big security presence.

It is not simply members of the Kikuyu community that are now seeking shelter here but other groups who fear they will be targeted too, assumptions made about which way they voted in this, Kenya's closest presidential race.

This is a mixed community, which before the elections was living side-by-side.

Intermarriages are common here but now political tensions have brought Kenya's ethnic divisions to the surface.

Political anger is being expressed along tribal lines.

A look at the scene of Kenya's church massacre

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