Nairobi - At least seven Kenyan police officers were killed and 21 more were wounded on Saturday as they pursued cattle rustlers in the north of the country, a police official told AFP.
"The officers were in a team pursuing stolen cattle when they were ambushed," said a senior officer, who did not wish to be named.
"Some of the bandits were wounded in the attack and others killed," during the gun battle, he added, without being able to give precise numbers.
Some of the wounded officers were airlifted by plane or by helicopter to Nairobi for treatment.
The attack happened near Baragoi, in a dry northern region mainly inhabited by nomad communities.
The police chief of the Rift Valley province, where the attack happened, confirmed that there had been a clash.
"We had an incident involving our officers and there are casualties," he said.
Cattle theft and the ensuing clashes between rival groups claim dozens of lives every year in Kenya.
It is rare however for police officers themselves to be attacked.
Police numbers there are low and the officers are poorly equipped. The cattle herders have therefore armed themselves against attacks from rival groups.
The group of rustlers police were pursuing at the time of this latest clash were already suspected of having killed 13 people and wounded three others in a previous raid on 30 October.
Elsewhere in Kenya, in the southeast Tana River region, inter-communal violence claimed more than a hundred lives in August and September.
The scale and intensity of those killings - women and children were hacked to death or torched in their huts - has shocked many.
Some observers have accused local politicians of stirring up inter-communal hatred for political ends.