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At least three killed in further land clashes around Athi River town

by Robert Manyara MACHAKOS (Xinhua) -- At least three people were slashed to death while 20 others were injured on Friday in clashes between two groups over a piece of land in Athi River, about 20 km east of Nairobi.

Machakos Police Commander Samuel Mukinda said the injured sustained serious wounds in the clashes that lasted the better part of Friday pitting local youths and a group of about 200 who had been brought there to occupy the land.

Mukinda said police moved in and arrested 100 youths involved in the fighting as part of efforts to contain the situation. At least 40 houses were demolished by unknown assailants in a dawn raid at the disputed piece of land.

"We have arrested about 100 youths over these skirmishes and we are hunting for more," said Mukinda. Witnesses said that over 200 youths were ferried from Nairobi in buses early Friday before they demolished houses and setting others on fire.

The land is vast and is claimed by many groups but authorities said it belongs to East Africa Portlands Cement. The groups were armed with machetes, bows and arrows as they confronted each other for hours.

Land issues are emotive in the East African nation and the violence coming ahead of the August elections threatens peace at large.

More police officers were mobilized to the scene as the violence escalated affecting traffic flow on the main Nairobi-Mombasa Highway.

The fighting comes after the country’s third largest cement maker by market share announced in November last year plans to sell part of its 13,000 acres to help it return to profitability.

However, residents in some of the areas where the company proposed to dispose of parcels of land it owns want to be given first priority in the planned sale.

The company plans to raise about 80 million U.S. dollars from the proposed transaction.


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