The Kenyan police have said in the past that they will 'wipe out' the Mungiki sect  [EPA]

Once only a religious group which embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki sect has fractured and is now a politically linked gang.
 
Mungiki claims to have thousands of adherents particularly among poor male youths, many of them former street children all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe.
 
The group, whose name means "multitude" in the Kikuyu language, was inspired by the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule.
 
Recently it has been linked to extortion, murder and political violence.
 
Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the gang is notorious for criminal activities including extortion and murder.
 
Leaflets circulated by the group call on Kenyan youth to join up and prepare for an uprising against the government.

The Kenyan government has in the past cracked down on members of the sect.

Driven underground

The sect has accused the police of being heavy-handed in its dealings with the Mungiki, but they have only succeeded in driving the sect further underground.

In March 2007, the gang was accused of murdering at least 43 people - beheading several of its victims - mainly in Nairobi slums and central Kenya.

John Michuki, Kenya's internal security minister, told Al Jazeera in May 2007: "The government will do everything possible as mandated by the law to wipe them out."

In August 2007, Njoroge Kamunya, also known as John Maina Njenga, who had been on the run for two years, was arrested by Kenyan police. He was later sentenced to five years in jail for the possession of an illegal firearm and 5kg of marijuana.

In March 2008, police clashed with hundreds of young men demanding the release of a former leader of the sect.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies