Mob attack on church in Kenya leaves 30 dead

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mwai Kibaki

A mob set fire to a church in western Kenya Tuesday, killing at least 30 people inside who were seeking refuge from widespread post-election violence. Some reports state that as many as 50 people were killed. It is believed that approximately half of the dead are children. Witnesses say the fire was set by a gang of young men who poured fuel on the structure before setting it ablaze.

Reporter Abjata Khalif of the Africa Pastoralist Journalists Network visited the scene. He told VOA he counted 13 bodies lying in pools of blood within the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentacostal church in the village of Burnt Forest just a few kilometers outside Eldoret.

“The attackers came and overran the entire church,” he said. “They broke down the doors and then broke the windows. Several of the bodies I saw had big cuts; others were dismembered.”

“[Some of the bodies] were barefoot,” he continued. “ They ran away from their farms or their homes because the violence was (expected).

Opposition leader Raila Odinga

[Many], who were in the church [originally] with the children and old people, ran for dear life [as the attack began] and left the others inside.”

Khalif said NGOs including the Red Cross are looking for those who successfully fled the church to identify the dead. Aid agencies also predict that there would be a "humanitarian catastrophe," if problems in Kenya are not resolved soon.

He says some politicians are calling for calm include the opposition MP for the area, William Ruto. Khalif said Ruto, who was expected to be named prime minister if opposition candidate Raila Odinga were named president, “made an effort to calm down the [Kalinjin people, saying we’re [trying] to solve the election [controversy] at international and national levels.” He said Ruto asked the public not to take part in acts of violence against life or property.

Khalif said authorities are girding for more potential unrest because the opposition has called for a mass action at the grounds of Uhuru Park in Nairobi Thursday, despite government warnings that such actions are illegal. He said up to two million people are expected.

The attack in the Eldoret area pushed the death toll from the violence to about 275. World leaders are calling on Kenyan politicians to help end the crisis, which divides Kenya's people mainly along ethnic lines — the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki and the Luo tribe of opposition leader Raila Odinga.


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