200 sect members held in Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya - Some 200 members of a banned sect linked to murders and beheadings, as well as killings during recent post-election violence, were arrested in the Kenyan capital over the past three days, police said on Thursday.

The sect, mainly drawn from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, has been accused of carrying out some of the killings that occurred during violence that claimed at least 1 500 lives after disputed elections on December 27.

The arrests came after police launched a house-to-house crackdown on the Mungiki sect on Tuesday in the capital's Kayole slums and outlying areas, said area police commander Leonard Omolo.

"The operation will continue because these people are the ones responsible for most of the crimes committed in the area," he said. "No amount of protests from residents will stop police operations.

Two suspects were shot and seriously wounded when they resisted arrest, officials said.

Once a religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals, authorities say the Mungiki sect has evolved into a ruthless gang blamed for criminal activities that include extortion and murder.

Since March last year, the sect has been blamed for murdering dozens of people, including 14 beheadings, mainly in slum districts of the capital Nairobi and in central Kenya.

Police have responded with a heavy-handed crackdown, killing scores of Mungiki adherents.