Kenyan ex-sect leader jailed

Nairobi, Kenya - A Kenyan court jailed the former leader of a banned sect blamed for a string of beheadings and murders in recent months, judicial sources said on Thursday.

Amid a nationwide crackdown on the Mungiki gang in which thousands were detained, Nairobi principal magistrate Rosemary Mutoka slapped a five years prison sentence on Maina Njenga for illegal possession of arms.

"I find that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction. The offence of being in possession of a firearm without a licence is serious," Mutoka said.

Njenga, who was arrested in February 2006, was also handed a two-year term for possessing cannabis, but both sentences will run concurrently.

After his remand, Njenga relinquished the leadership of the Mungiki, a sect which was banned after deadly violence in Nairobi slums.

Violence perpetrated by the Mungiki, which is believed to have high-ranking political backing, surged again in recent months as political jockeying intensified ahead of general elections due later this year.

At least 30 people have been killed since March 11 of them beheaded. Police responded with a heavy-handed crackdown, killing at least 38 suspected sect members.

Once a pseudo-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki has fragmented into a criminal gang notorious for activities such as extortion, murder and harassment of women.