NEWS ALERT: Catholic Priest Killed As Kenya Violence Spreads

Police reportedly fired tear gas and hundreds took to the streets of opposition strongholds in western Kenya and Nairobi's slums to protest the murder of opposition Parliamentarian Mugabe Were from Nairobi's Embakasai constituency.

Heavily-armed police reportedly patrolled two recent western Rift Valley flashpoints of violence, the lakeside towns of Nakuru and Naivasha, where scores have died in gruesome attacks in recent days, witnesses said. Police officials said they were investigating who was responsible for the murder.
 
It came on the heels of another high-profile killing of Catholic Priest Michael Kamau Ithondeka, 41, who was murdered early Saturday, January 26, in Nakuru at an illegal roadblock set up by armed youths, reported the Catholic Information Service Africa (CISA). He was vice rector at St. Mathias Mulumba Senior Seminary in the region, where at least 55 people died in clashes since last week, Thursday January 24, the news agency said. The murdered priest, who was from the Kiambu area, near the capital Nairobi, was ordained in 1993, BosNewsLife monitored.

MEDIATING TEAM

Amid the chaos, a mediating team led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, which has been in Kenya for a week, said it would launch formal dialogue between President Mwai Kibaki and his opposition rival Raila Odinga in Nairobi later Tuesday, January 29.

The violence underscored tensions between different ethnic groups in the East African nation. Members of President Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe suffered heavily in the first wave of violence from members of opposition leader Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, including the Kalenjin and Luhya.

Witnesses said members of the Kikuyu community are involved in the latest violence, seeking revenge for earlier deadly attacks against them. Police reportedly evacuated non-Kikuyus, and hundreds sought refuge in four Catholic parishes. CISA said an operation to evacuate Catholic personnel trapped by the ethnic violence was underway since Monday, January 28, in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru where the priest was "brutally" killed.

The diocese was moving to safety priests and other church workers from 10 parishes in the Kalenjin community heartland where members of the Kikuyu and Kisii etnic groups have been targeted in ongoing post-election skirmishes that began a month ago following the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.

TOWN RAIDED

This weekend suspected Kalenjin militants raided Burnt Forest, intending to kill displaced people camped in the town, but security personnel repulsed them, CISA quoted a Catholic priest as saying. The priest, apparently speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the warriors returned early on Monday, January 28, and police killed seven of them, including two schoolboys. He told the agency that he fears the attackers, "armed with bows, arrows, spears, machetes and petrol, were planning another attempt on the camp."

Deadly clashes also spread to other regions, including nearby Gigil Town, where at least two people were killed, an unidentified nun was quoted as saying. She said the violence "had trapped" the community between Gilgil and Nakuru. Another church representative, Priest Fred Ogambi in Kisumu area, told CISA that youths have "chased away teachers and students from schools to ensure the institutions remain closed."

Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement appealed for calm and restraint following the death of their lawmaker. "This is a new kind of violence but let's call again on people to be peaceful and to only respond to this kind of violence by shunning violence," the French News Agency AFP quoted Salim Lone, spokesman for the ODM of Odinga, as saying. "This is a very dark day for our country," he added after the first killing of a lawmaker or government official since the clashes began.

Odinga claims he was robbed of the presidency, charges the president denied. (Read more news on www.bosnewslife.com)

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