IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Kenyan police crackdown; 5 protesters killed

Police cracked down fiercely on a second day of protests across Kenya on Thursday, firing bullets at opposition supporters and tear gas at a hospital. At least five people were killed.
Image: Police officer beats an opposition supporter during riots in Kenya.
A police officer stands over an opposition supporter Thursday during riots in Nairobi's Mathare slum.Karel Prinsloo / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police cracked down fiercely on a second day of protests across Kenya on Thursday, firing bullets at opposition supporters and tear gas at a hospital. At least five people were killed.

The United States blamed President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga for the violent demonstrations and ethnic clashes that have killed more than 600 Kenyans since a disputed Dec. 27 presidential vote. Kibaki insists he won the election, but international and local observers say the vote count was rigged.

"It is beyond time for them to come together and open those channels of communication and focus all of their efforts on trying to reach a political accommodation," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Frustrated by the failure of international mediation, which could not even get the two rivals to meet, Odinga called three days of protests that started Wednesday.

'When will this end?'
Throughout the country, the crowds were tiny compared to the tens of thousands of protesters who turned out in the week after the announcement that Kibaki had won another five-year term by a razor-thin margin.

Odinga accused the police of being "on a killing spree," but police spokesman Eric Kiraithe denied it.

"When will this end?" asked Alfrank Okoth as he nursed a bullet wound to the chest in Nairobi's Masaba Hospital. The 28-year-old said he was shot by police at the gate of his house in the city's biggest slum, Kibera.

Three others with bullet wounds were admitted, including Pastor Francis Ivayo. He said he was shielding a group of children near his church in Kibera when police fired from a train going through the slum, hitting him in the lower back.

Another man, shot through the neck, died in front of a reporter. No one knew his name.

The victim was among five deaths in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu that reporters were able to confirm Thursday. Odinga said seven people were killed in Nairobi, but offered no evidence.

"We are fighting and dying for Raila and Kibaki and they don't even care for us," said Mary Atieno, 27, as she waited for protesters to stop throwing rocks so she could collect her children from school. "Only the ordinary man is suffering."

Death counts rise
In Kisumu, an opposition stronghold some 185 miles from Nairobi, a morgue attendant said two bodies with bullet wounds were brought in Thursday, including a woman who witnesses said was hit by a bullet that pierced the corrugated iron wall of her home. They showed a reporter the bullet hole.

Five people were killed in Kisumu on Wednesday, including a 10-year-old boy.

Kiraithe, the police spokesman, said police shot and killed two "criminal" protesters elsewhere Thursday. He said one was in a group of about 50 young men who blocked a convoy of 42 petroleum tankers and tried to set them ablaze. The other killed was in "a group of criminals" who fired at police in Nairobi's Mathare slum, Kiraithe said.

In Mathare, a group of men chased police, hurling chunks of cement and brandishing machetes. Medics reported four people shot and two injured in other attacks in the slum.

Nations threaten to cut aid
In western Eldoret city, police tear gassed and clubbed 10 people eating lunch at the gate of the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, said Tony Kirwa, a hospital spokesman. He said tear gas landed in the hospital's emergency department, an open area near the entrance.

At the European Parliament, legislators called for new elections in Kenya if a "credible and fair recount" of votes proves impossible and a "freezing of all further budgetary support" to the East African nation.

On Tuesday, 13 nations, including the United States and Britain, threatened to stop aid.

But government spokesman Alfred Mutua said "the government of Kenya will not be blackmailed .... We are able to support ourselves."

Only 6 percent of Kenya's budget comes from foreign aid. The unrest, though, has hurt the economy, particularly the key tourism sector.