updated 9/16/2009 11:53:38 AM ET 2009-09-16T15:53:38

Most of the bodies of 32 Kenyans killed during a cattle raid in northern Kenya were buried in a mass grave Wednesday, an official said, as local media questioned whether police had ignored warnings about the attack.

Raphael Letimao, legislator for Samburu East district said the 21 members of the Samburu tribe killed in Tuesday's raid were buried together. The authorities had removed the bodies of the 11 members of the Pokot raiding party, he said.

Dozens of people also were wounded in Tuesday's raid in arid northern Kenya, Letimao said.

‘Cusp of a major, major disaster’
A prolonged drought has driven millions of Kenyans to seek food aid and the raids are a key way of replenishing cattle herds depleted by the drought.

"This is the worst drought in nine years ... we are really on the cusp of a major, major disaster," said Brenda Barton, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program.

Barton said people have been bringing their cattle hundreds of miles in search of grass or water.

"Their cattle are dying, people are pulling their children out of school, malnutrition are rates are raising," she said.

Worsening tensions
The drought has exacerbated tensions linked to political struggles and feuds between ethnic groups in an area already awash with weapons from conflicts in neighboring Uganda, Somalia and Sudan.

The cover of Wednesday's edition of The Standard, a popular national newspaper, showed a spear-wielding man standing guard over the body of a child shot dead by raiders. Inside, the paper quoted residents and local leaders who said they had warned police of an imminent attack.

Police and government spokesmen did not return calls seeking comment, but residents say police in northern Kenya are often so badly equipped that residents must supply police cars with gasoline if they expect officers to answer a complaint.

More on: Kenya

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