Kenyan police battle 'Mungiki' gang, six more die

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police shot dead two members of the outlawed Mungiki gang on Monday after the killing of two officers and two civilians in the latest of a wave of gun-battles convulsing the east African nation.

Violence flared again on Sunday night when Mungiki gunmen opened fire on police patrolling a crowded minibus terminal in a north-east district of Nairobi, a police spokesman said.

A 15-year-old boy, a shopkeeper, and two officers died.

"Four gunmen attacked police from behind late on Sunday night. Two officers were killed and two people caught in the crossfire," Eric Kiraithe said.

"All four gunmen escaped as police were reluctant to fire in such a congested location."

Early on Monday police tracked down the gunmen's hideout, killing two and arresting four suspects, the spokesman added.

Mungiki, whose name means "multitude" in the Kikuyu tribal language, was banned in 2002 after members armed with knives and clubs killed more than 20 people in a Nairobi slum.

The group instils fear by promoting archaic Kikuyu rituals. Many Kenyans believe it has support of corrupt politicians.

Of late, Mungiki members have fought weeks of battles with minibus operators who are resisting demands for protection money, which the government estimates nets more than 90 million Kenya shillings ($1.35 million) a day nationwide.

In a macabre turn, villagers in central Kenya last week found severed heads placed on poles and body parts scattered in bushes in an attack blamed on Mungiki.

Facing a rise in violence across the nation in an election year, Kenyan officials have vowed to wipe out the notorious sect and Internal Security Minister John Michuki has posted more police at minibus terminals preyed on by Mungiki.

"The new measures are working and Sunday's attack has forced a change of tactics, with gunmen targeting big crowds for their own safety," Kiraithe said. "Police officers have paid the ultimate price, but you can't put a price on law and order."