Nairobi - Six people, including three police officers, have been shot dead in a cattle theft raid in northwestern Kenya, a local police chief said Monday.

“The three officers were ambushed as they pursued stolen animals. Three locals were also killed in the raid,” area police chief Omondi Musewe said.

The incident took place Sunday night in Ng'aratuko in Baringo county as some 30 officers were pursuing cattle thieves, he said.

He added he thought “some of the raiders who managed to escape sustained gunshot wounds in the firefight.”

In November, in another incident in northern Kenya, more than 40 policemen were killed in an ambush as they pursued cattle thieves.

Cattle rustling and tit-for-tat killings between rival nomadic communities leave dozens dead every year in that part of the country.

Police forces based there tend to be short of both officers and equipment and the nomads are increasingly resorting to carrying firearms.

Observers are worried about the surge in violence ahead of the March 4 elections. Another region that has been the scene of numerous bloody raids between rival communities is the Tana River Delta in southeastern Kenya. - Sapa-AFP