A London law firm is preparing a class-action suit against the British government in the name of women in two communities in a semi-arid region in north-central Kenya used by British troops for tropical training since 1972.

As part of a joint inquiry with Kenyan authorities, British military police have interviewed more than 2000 women from the Maasai and Samburu tribes to ascertain the veracity of their claims, said Mark Norton, spokesman for the British High Commission.

On Saturday British and Kenyan investigators exhumed the body of a woman allegedly raped and killed by British soldiers nine years ago in the small town of Archer's Post, 227km northeast of Nairobi.

Investigators reburied the woman's remains later the same day.

Benjamin Onsongo, the deputy police chief of Archer's Post, said investigators had taken samples from the body for further analysis. He declined to give other details.

Compensation

British troops trained in a semi-
arid region in north-central Kenya

A court in Nairobi last month granted a request by Kenyan police to exhume the body of the woman, whom it identified as Mantoi Kaunda.

Last year London law firm Leigh, Day and Company, began preparing a class action suit against the British Defence Ministry in the name of 650 women from Archer's Post and nearby Dol Dol.

The rape allegations began to surface when lawyer Martyn Day was investigating claims that unexploded British ordnance had killed and maimed hundreds of herdsmen.

In July 2002, the British government agreed to pay US$7.4 million to 233 of those victims.

Out of 5500 rape claims that the London lawyers compiled with the help of a Kenyan human rights group, they have accepted 1100 - or 20% - as genuine.

In July 2003, the British government granted legal aid for 650 women represented by the firm in the class-action suit.