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Jan 01, 2008 at 11:39pm IST

'50 burnt in church' as Kenya violence spread

Nairobi: At least 50 bodies have been found in a burnt church, The Associated Press has reported the Red Cross as saying, as tribal tensions simmered following the contested election of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.

A local reporter told CNN he counted at least 15 charred bodies, including those of children, at the church and an adjacent field in Kiambaa, about 185 miles (300 km) northwest of Nairobi.

"There was a huge mob, they attacked the church," said a witness in comments reported by The Associated Press. The person, who asked to remain anonymous in case of reprisals, added: "We counted 15 to 20 bodies."

VIOLENCE SPREADS: The deaths came as opposition supporters fought with police firing tear gas and live ammunition across the country.

The deaths came as opposition supporters fought with police firing tear gas and live ammunition across the country.

The demonstrators are protesting the government's announcement Sunday that voters had re-elected Kibaki with 51.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 48.7 per cent for Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.

The victims found in Kiambaa were of the Kikuyu tribe, who comprise roughly 22 per cent of the country's population and of which Kibaki is a member.

It is believed they had been seeking refuge from members of the Luo tribe, which makes up about 13 per cent of population and of which Odinga is a member.

Kenya, long one of the most stable nations in east Africa, descended into chaos after the disputed election triggered violence that has left at least 124 people dead.

The number is expected to rise, with AP putting the number of dead as at least 228 since Saturday, based on reports from police, morgues and witnesses.

The deaths came as opposition supporters fought with police firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Speaking Tuesday, Odinga said more than 160 people died in Monday's violence and that "many people have been killed today."

The death toll, he said, "will be much, much higher than what the government is giving."

Local media report many of those killed in the post-election violence died of gunshot and machete wounds.

Meanwhile international observers have also called into question the result, which saw Kibaki re-elected to a second term.

"We find that these elections have fallen short of international standards of democratic elections," said Alexander Lambsdorff, the head of the EU Election Observation Mission in Kenya.

Lambsdorff cited discrepancies in vote counts, election observers being turned away from polling places and observers being refused entrance to the electoral commission vote counting room.

The violence is rare for Kenya, an island of stability that has enjoyed relative calm even as war and chronic political violence wracked neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.

The United States has withheld congratulations for Kibaki, citing concerns of voting problems, even though Kibaki has claimed victory.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement scheduled rallies for Tuesday, raising fears of more violence.

"The Kenyan people are right now in a state of mourning," Odinga told CNN on Monday as he appealed for calm. "They are mourning the loss of democracy."

"With the general election now behind us, it is now time for healing and reconciliation among all Kenyans," he also said on Monday.

Witnesses told CNN Monday that they had seen widespread violence in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as angry Odinga supporters set fire to buildings. Police attempted to hold them back with tear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said.

Local media reported a number of deaths as a result of the rioting, as well as reports of police brutality, although CNN has been unable to confirm this independently.

In the western port city of Kisumu -- the capital of Odinga's home province -- at least 19 people were shot dead by police, according to the Kenyan daily newspaper the Nation.

Other media reports put the figure much higher, claiming up to 50 were killed there overnight.

In Nairobi, small bands of Odinga supporters were stopped from making their way to a rally in Uhuru Park -- a traditional site for political demonstrations in the center of the city. The rally was called by Odinga, who accused Kibaki of "doctoring" the vote.

Businesses in Nairobi were shut down and a government ban on live television broadcasts imposed Sunday was still in place as Kibaki struggled to cope with the fallout from the vote.

A Dr. Mawji at the Agha Khan hospital, Kisumu, said the medical staff had treated seven men for gunshot injuries, one of who is in a critical condition.

A member of staff in the Imperial hotel in Kisumu told CNN by telephone that a curfew was in force on the streets.

She said she and other hotel staff had been forced to sleep in the hotel overnight after police threatened to shoot on sight anyone who breached the curfew.

The official count had put Kibaki narrowly ahead of Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement - 4,584,721 votes to 4,352,993.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement Sunday that Britain had "real concerns at the irregularities reported by the EU observers and others".

One international observer, who did not wish to be identified, told CNN that the vote count was "clearly cooked."

Analysts said, however, that it was probable that both of the main parties had been involved in electoral fraud.

Thomas Cargill, a specialist on African politics at the British think tank Chatham House, said it was difficult to imagine Odinga giving up his claims for the presidency without a fight. "It is very worrying," Cargill told CNN.

Kibaki was sworn in Sunday in a ceremony at the presidential palace.

His slim margin of victory is a marked difference from his win five years ago in a landslide election. He had run on promises to fight corruption.

Since then, he has seen his authority erode amid a number of high-profile corruption scandals in his government.

He faced a serious challenge from Odinga, a flamboyant politician who had won support from the rural and urban after promising to share the wealth among all the people.

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