Deadly clashes in Kenya

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Clashes between police and protesters in several cities Friday resulted in as many as 12 deaths, bringing the toll to nearly two dozen in three days of "mass action," witnesses and officials said.

The deadliest skirmishes occurred in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, where angry youths tore up railway lines that run through the restive district, connecting the Kenyan coastline to Uganda.

Protesters dubbed the broken transport line the "Odinga Highway," in honor of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who ran against President Mwai Kibaki in the Dec. 27 election. Violence has rocked the East African country since Kibaki was declared the winner amid allegations of widespread fraud. More than 600 people have died in postelection clashes.

Police, who have been criticized for their heavy-handed response to the protests, swarmed into the rain-soaked Kibera slum in the late afternoon, firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Witnesses said four to seven people were killed, including a teenage girl, apparently a bystander.

"They were just firing indiscriminately and lobbing tear gas at any people in their way," said John Lallo, 62, an unemployed resident of Kibera. "I can't even say that this is unusual. They use force like that every time there is a crisis."

In the coastal city of Mombasa, police battled scores of Muslim protesters as they exited a mosque after Friday prayers. Four people reportedly were shot, one fatally.

Odinga and human rights groups are calling for an investigation of alleged police brutality.

Government officials defended the police, saying they were not dealing with peaceful marchers, but with angry young men who at times have stoned them, burned homes and looted businesses.

"We are dealing with a mob psychology," said Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

The government has banned demonstrations and prohibited television broadcasters from airing live coverage of the violence.

Police also are dealing with tribal violence set off by the election dispute.

In southern Kenya, four people from Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe were killed Friday with poisoned arrows and machetes by members of a rival Maasai tribe near the city of Narok, a local official told Reuters news agency.

Friday marked the official end of the nationwide protests called by opposition forces. Internationally mediated peace talks are scheduled to start Tuesday, when former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan arrives in Nairobi.

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