Pathologists began exhuming a mass grave Thursday in Kenya’s troubled Tana River region, where a recent string of bloody clashes between rival ethnic groups has left over 100 dead, police said.
Violence between the groups erupted in mid-August, pitting the Pokomo farming community against their Orma pastoralist neighbours, leading to a series of vicious reprisal killings and attacks.
Regional police chief Aggrey Adoli said a team of pathologists and grave diggers started work early Thursday. There was no immediate sense of how many bodies the grave may contain, and communications were difficult with the remote area, which has a poor phone network.
“We will have to wait until they complete to be able to know what they have found,” Adoli said.
The two communities have clashed in the past—violence that has often been attributed to disputes over water and grazing rights.
But the scale and intensity of recent killings—with women and children hacked to death or torched in their huts—has shocked many and locals say politicians are fuelling the violent surge.
Last week, Dhadho Godhana, assistant livestock minister and member of parliament for Galole in the Tana River delta, was charged in court with incitement to violence.
The grave was found Sunday in the Garsen area, the location of recent killings.
Police officials said bodies there are thought to have been buried by a raiding party that had carried off comrades killed during an attack.
More than 1,000 paramilitary police have been deployed to the region in an effort to stem further attacks.
The latest clashes have evoked the large-scale ethnic violence that erupted in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 polls, when blood-letting rocked a country long thought to have been among the region’s most stable.
Some observers fear a surge in violence ahead of elections due in March 2013.