At least 11 people, including eight police officers and a local chief, were killed on Saturday by cattle rustlers they were chasing in drought-stricken northern Kenya, Kenyan police said Sunday.
Cattle rustling or disputes over water sources or grazing land are common in the pastoral areas of northern Kenya, which border Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The Kenyan police denounced on Twitter a "criminal and cowardly ambush by cattle rustlers against the public and police officers" in Turkana County, which it said left 11 people dead: 8 police officers, 2 civilians and a local chief.
The police officers killed were in pursuit of members of the Pokot ethnic group who had attacked a village and fled with cattle.
The authorities announced that additional reinforcements would be sent to the area.
In November 2012, 42 police officers were killed in an unprecedented ambush in the north, in the Baragoi region.
In August 2019, also in the north, at least 12 people were killed by cattle rustlers suspected to be Ethiopians of Borana ethnicity.
Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, is experiencing a drought of unprecedented severity for 40 years, with hunger affecting at least 4 million of its more than 50 million people.
Four consecutive seasons of insufficient rainfall have created the driest conditions since the early 1980s.
Rivers and wells have dried up, pastures have turned to dust, causing the death of more than 1.5 million livestock in Kenya alone.
The National Meteorological Organization has warned of a possible increase in "human and human-wildlife conflicts".
-Hunt for cattle rustlers-
Kenya has launched an operation to arrest cattle rustlers who killed 11 people in an ambush on Saturday.
Kenya's police say the operation aims to arrest the perpetrators, recover the stolen animals and firearms and return normalcy to the area.
It urged people to offer information that may lead to the arrest of the gang and recovery of the stolen animals.