Kenyan police slay 21 suspected members of banned sect

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police have killed at least 21 suspected members of a banned sect in a Nairobi slum in retaliation for the killing of two policemen, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

"Following the killing of two policemen, we launched an operation to recover the firearms that were stolen (from them) ... and 21 people who were resisting arrest were killed" overnight, said national police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

"They are Mungiki members who started resisting arrest when police launched the operation to recover firearms."

The politically-linked Mungiki sect has been blamed for a wave of recent murders including several gruesome beheadings.

The shadowy religious group, with alleged historic ties to the Mau Mau independence uprising, comprises mainly snuff-taking, dreadlocked youths who champion old traditions such as female circumcision and oath-taking.

Kiraithe said the crackdown in the Mathare slums in northern Nairobi was continuing.

"The operation will not stop until all the firearms they stole from the police are recovered. But so far, we have have recovered three pistols, six rounds of ammunition and 15 machetes," he added.

Meanwhile, a top police official told AFP that Mungiki members killed at least four people in Karuro town, about 80 kilometres northeast of the capital, in the early hours of Tuesday.

Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the sect is notorious for criminal activities including extortion, murder and harassment of women.