POLICE and troops, backed by military helicopters, launched an offensive against the raiders suspected to be from the ethnic Turkana community
KENYA on Wednesday charged five regional officials with the murder of 32 Kenyan police officers killed by armed cattle raiders in an ambush at the weekend, described as the worst attack on the country's police.
The junior officials, who oversee a cluster of villages in the northwestern region, pleaded not guilty after they were arrested early on Wednesday.
Police and troops, backed by military helicopters, launched an offensive against the raiders suspected to be from the ethnic Turkana community who had stolen cattle from the Samburu tribe.
Clashes over cattle, land and water are common among Kenya's fringe tribes, but many in the east African country were shocked by extent of the violence and the kind of weapons used.
The raiders used machine guns and rocket propelled grenades to kill the officers in a military-style ambush in the remote northwestern territory. Some unconfirmed media reports said up to 42 bodies had been recovered in the rugged Suguta valley.
Osman Warfa, provincial commissioner of the vast Rift Valley province, said the five junior regional officials planned the attack. The five were also charged with livestock theft and were being held in custody to assist with investigations.
"We obtained credible information after investigating that implicated the five," Warfa told Reuters.
"They planned the raid, kept the stolen animals and instructed the raiders to kill the officers."
The attack has highlighted how ill-equipped Kenya's police force is, at a time when they are facing new challenges.
There is pressure to improve the force ahead of elections next March - the first since a disputed election in 2007 fuelled ethnic slaughter that killed more than 1,200 people and forced about 300,000 from their homes.
Five charged over Kenya police killings