By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Eight people were killed when raiders armed with guns, machetes and arrows attacked a village in Kenya's Coast Province on Wednesday in what police said was politically instigated fighting linked to upcoming elections.
The raiders were Pokomo farmers who attacked semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists. It was latest violence in a dispute ostensibly over grazing land and water in which 100 people were killed last August in raids and revenge attacks.
However, the conflict had taken on political dimensions, a senior police officer said.
"We have names of several politicians, business people and local elites who we believe have been, and are still funding the attacks in the Tana. They are using grazing land and water as excuses," regional police chief Aggrey Adoli told reporters in Mombasa.
Police would soon make arrests of those suspected of being behind the violence.
"When we arrest them, they will tell us how and where they are acquiring illegal firearms and other weapons to arm these locals," Adoli said.
The raiders from the Pokomo tribe attacked Nduru village in the Tana delta, home to Ormas, and killed one woman and four men at dawn, he said. The Ormas killed two of the attackers in defense, and one other Orma died while being taken to hospital.
Four policemen who were escorting a local government official to tour the scene of the attacks were also wounded when their vehicle was attacked.
Kenya Red Cross officials said they evacuated nine other wounded people to a hospital in the resort town of Malindi, located 100 km (62 miles) from the area of the attack.
"Many of them were bleeding from gunshot wounds and cuts and we had to administer first aid as we carried them to hospital," Coast Province Red Cross co-ordinator Mwanaisha Hamisi told Reuters.
Although the two tribes have fought for years over access to grazing land and water, police and human rights groups blame the recent violence on politicians seeking to drive away parts of the population they believe will vote for their rivals in the presidential and parliamentary elections in March.
This has raised fears of a repeat of the ethnic violence that rocked Kenya after the disputed 2007 presidential election, in which more than 1,200 people were killed nationwide and thousands more driven from their homes.
The attacks took place despite the deployment of more than 1,000 security personnel in the area.
(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by James Macharia and Angus MacSwan)