By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Attackers armed with machetes, bows and arrows and spears locked Kenyan villagers in their houses, set the structures alight and killed anyone who tried to escape, leaving at least 48 dead overnight, police and aid workers said.
The raid in Kenya's coastal region was part of a long-running dispute between the area's Pokomo and Orma groups over grazing land and water, said police.
"They were armed with crude weapons: machetes, bows and arrows and spears. Some had guns. As a result we have lost 31 women, 11 children and six men, all totaling 48," area deputy police chief Robert Kitur told Reuters by telephone.
A Kenyan Red Cross official who asked not to be named, said they had counted 59 bodies, and the group had ferried more than 40 injured people to a hospital in Malindi town, 150km (93 miles) away from the scene.
"Many of the injured are women and children with severe burns. Eleven have deep cuts on their heads and other body parts," the official told Reuters.
"I have counted seven with bullet wounds. We have tried to stabilize them, but honestly it will be a miracle if all of them arrive at hospital alive."
About 100 raiders from the Pokomo attacked Rekete village, inhabited by Ormas, late on Tuesday, said police.
The raid was in retaliation for an attack by Orma youths on Pokomo farmers which killed two people, officers added.
The long dispute between the two groups erupted after the farmers accused the pastoralists of grazing their cattle in their farms.
Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land are relatively common between communities in arid areas of east Africa and often escalate into revenge attacks.
Coast provincial commissioner Samuel Kilele said he had held a meeting with leaders from both groups last week which had appeared to resolve the dispute and he was shocked at the latest attacks.
"This is a case of our people who have decided to fight amongst themselves, and unless they decide to resolve themselves, there is little we can do," he told reporters.
"It's risky even for me. I cannot go there as an administrator and am forced to coordinate from here," he added, speaking from his office in Mombasa.
In a separate overnight incident in north eastern Kenya, five people died after cattle rustlers attacked a village in Mandera near Kenya's border with Somalia and Ethiopia.
Kenya Red Cross said 11 people, including a six-year old child, had died and scores had been wounded in that region over the past two days.
Similar clashes in January killed at least 21 in Kenya's north.
(Additional reporting by Noor Ali in Isiolo; Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)