Tribesmen have attacked a village in southeastern Kenya, torching homes and sparking clashes that killed at least 38 people, in the latest round of tit-for-tat ethnic violence to plague the area, officials said.
The vendetta between the Pokomo farming community and their Orma pastoralist neighbours already left 52 dead last month in Kenya's worst tribal killings in years.
"Sixteen men, nine police officers, eight children and five women have died with 167 houses burnt"
- Nelly Muluka,
Kenya Red Cross spokesperson
At least 300 members of the Pokomo tribe stormed Kilelengwani, a village in the Tana River delta, early on Monday and attacked members of the Orma community.
"We have 38 people dead including police officers. We are doing everything possible to restore peace there," local police chief Aggrey Adoli said.
A Red Cross official said nine policemen were among the dead.
"Sixteen men, nine police officers, eight children and five women have died with 167 houses burnt," Kenya Red Cross spokesperson Nelly Muluka said.
She said the police officers were caught up in the fighting when they tried to respond to the emergency.
"The dispute [between the Pokomo and Orma communities] is over land and water," Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow reported from the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday.
"In the past few weeks over 100 people were killed in a spate of tit-for-tat attacks as the dispute between the two communities escalated."
The two rival communities have clashed repeatedly over the use of land and water resources. The Pokomo are a largely settled farming people, planting crops along the Tana River, while the Orma are mainly cattle-herding pastoralists.
"Some people rule politics in the violence in the Tana river delta," our correspondent said. "They say because of the elections that are going to be held in about six months, there are some communities who don't want to see members from their opposing communities within some constituencies where they want to fill candidates for elective positions."
Police arrested four local chiefs in connection with the most recent violence, Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Kilele said.
"Four area chiefs have been arrested. These are the people who are on the ground and who must have had knowledge of the attacks even before they occurred," he said. "The hunt is on for the attackers."
Caleb Kilande, a Red Cross official, told the AFP from Kilelengwani."Tensions remain high in the area, but the fighting has stopped."
Kenya Red Cross chief Abbas Gullet said in a statement: "The situation is getting dangerous, something needs to be done urgently."
The Red Cross said it sent ambulances, paramedics and first aid teams into the village and that a further eight people were still in hospital.
The attack happened in the Tarassa area of the Tana River district, close to the coast and some 300km from the capital Nairobi.
Last month, the same area witnessed a wave of violence in which at least 52 people, mainly women and children, were hacked or burnt to death in the worst ethnic massacre in Kenya for several years.
The August attack led to the questioning of local legislator Dhado Godhana, after Kenya's internal security minister accused him of fanning violence in the region, claims he has denied.
The violence follows warnings last month by the Red Cross's Gullet that over 200 Kenyans have been killed in ethnic clashes since January.
Many of the attacks - often small-scale tit-for-tat raids between rival ethnic groups in remote and impoverished rural regions - generate little attention. They are often blamed on tensions between communities sparked by land, grazing or water resources, not politics.
But the latest pattern of violence has conjured up the spectre of the large scale ethnic violence that erupted in the aftermath of disputed 2007 polls.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies