By Stephen Ingati and Fabian Mangera
SAMBURU, Kenya, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Death toll from clashes in the northern Kenyan region of Samburu has risen to six after two more victims of cattle rustling succumbed to injuries on Friday evening.
Samburu county police commander Patrick Wambani who confirmed the incident said two police reservists who helped security officers to enhance peace in the troubled region were among those who died in a dawn attack at Waso Rongai on Friday.
Wambani said the heavily armed bandits invaded a remote village in Samburu West, Samburu County North of Kenya, where thousands of livestock were also stolen.
"Two of the people who were critically injured have been airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment. The officers who had been pursuing the bandits have since withdrawn due to darkness, " Wambani told Xinhua by telephone.
He said the attack saw five Samburu tribesmen and a Turkana raider killed during a fierce fire exchange that lasted more than eight hours.
Local leaders said 2,000 cattle were seized during the fire exchange between the Turkana raiders and Samburu men at a remote village in a strategic pasture grazing zone.
They said the exchange between the two forced hundreds of families to flee their homes for fear of their life as raiders closed up after overpowering the local police reservists.
"The heavily armed raiders caught up with the villagers by surprise in a dawn attack where they spread bullets before killing the six in an exchange of fire," Wambani said.
"The raiders were many and managed to overpower Kenya Police Reservists," the local police commander said, adding that security operation will be sustained until the raiders are arrested and livestock recovered.
A former civic leader Daniel Legerded said two school boys who had recently completed their secondary education were among those killed in the attack.
He said the police reservists managed to kill one of the raiders during a fire exchange as they drove away hundreds of cattle, shoats and donkeys.
Hundreds of the security officers were deployed into the areas to crack down on raiders.
Two police choppers and several police trucks were also deployed to help police to hunt the suspects and monitor their movement as they advanced towards them.
The attack comes barely a day after Turkana herders killed seven Toposa raiders from South Sudan.
Livestock herding is the main livelihood and source of income in northern and some parts of eastern Kenya, and the hike in cattle thefts threatens to ignite cross-community reprisals and raids that could set the stage for a surge in ethnic fighting in the region.
Clashes between the rival cattle herding pastoralists in the region are common, with herders often carrying guns to protect their animals, but the recent fighting has been unusually heavy.