Kenyan MPs freed after 'mass grave' questioning

Billow Kerrow
Image caption Billow Kerrow and five other politicians were detained for six hours

Six Kenyan politicians, detained over comments on the alleged discovery of mass graves in the north-east, have been released after six hours.

The six, including prominent lawmaker Billow Kerrow, were taken to a police building for questioning.

Mr Kerrow suggested the graves were of people killed by the security forces.

The interior minister said the allegation was false, and undermined efforts to tackle militant Islamists.

Fifteen sites had been exhumed in Mandera county, and no mass graves had been found, Joseph Nkaissery said in a statement.

The body of one woman was discovered.

Mr Kerrow and the other politicians had caused "unnecessary alarm and fear following outlandish and unsubstantiated allegations", he added.

"The claim is that any person found dead is assumed to have been killed by a security agent. This is not only unacceptable but outrageous," Mr Nkaissery said.

He demanded that the politicians "retract in full and apologise to the nation for their alarmist statements", or risk facing the "full force of the law".

Although Mr Kerrow subsequently apologised, police arrested him and another five politicians when they flew in from Mandera to the capital, Nairobi, reports the BBC's Robert Kiptoo from the scene.

The six were driven in police vehicles to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Division for questioning, he adds.

Human rights concerns

Amnesty International said it had visited Mandera, and could confirm that there were no mass graves.

However, there were reports of systematic human rights violations, including torture and extra-judicial killings, it said.

When the reports of a mass grave first emerged earlier this week, the hashtag #StopKillingSomalis started to trend in Kenya.

A report last year by campaign group Human Rights Watch said there was strong evidence that Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the region.

Kenya's security forces deny the allegation.

Kenya has thousands of troops fighting al-Shabab in neighbouring Somalia. The militant group says this is why it has staged several deadly attacks in Kenya in recent years.

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