‘Military’ ambush by cattle raiders leaves 32 police dead

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Armed cattle raiders killed at least 32 Kenyan police officers in a military-style ambush, the government has confirmed, calling it the worst attack on police in the country’s history.

Officers hunting the cattle thieves in a remote northern region on Saturday came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in an ambush the police said was conducted with “military precision”.

Osman Warfa, provincial commissioner for the Rift Valley province, said: “We have recovered more bodies, we now have 32 in total. They were ambushed by attackers bearing sophisticated weapons.”

The police were pursuing raiders from the ethnic Turkana community who had stolen cattle from the Samburu tribe, authorities said. The two groups frequently raid cattle from each other and fight over grazing land and watering points.

Police trailed the bandits at night, hoping to recover the animals, but were instead outmanoeuvred and ambushed, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said. He added: “It is easily the worst single attack on police.”

Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land are relatively common in arid areas of east Africa and often escalate into revenge attacks. It was not clear how many were killed in the initial raid by the Turkana.