NAIROBI - At least 30 people have been killed Friday in clashes between rival farming communities in the Tana River district on the Kenyan coast, reports BBC News.

The attacks, that come after weeks of sharp tension between rival Pokomo and Orma communities occurred at around 4 a.m., according to Kenyan radio station Capital FM.

"We have 19 people killed who are members of one of the two rival communities, while the nine others are attackers," said a local official. "Some of those killed are women and children, it was a brutal attack,” a police officer who saw the bodies told Capital FM.

 Hebergeur d'image

The Tana District in Kenya - Source: Googlemaps

According to Reuters, the police says more than 150 Pokomo raiders attacked the village of Kipao. The Ormas are believed to have been aware of the assault and were prepared, Robert Kitur, Coast Region deputy police chief, told reporters. The attackers used firearms, spears, machetes and arrows, according to the police officer.

Sixteen people were airlifted to the coastal city of Mombasa for treatment, reports Al Jazeera. Police reinforcements and emergency officials are being flown to the scene.

The clash between the two tribes took place during a disarmament operation, reports the radio station.

In August, the two communities had already clashed in a dispute over Orma farmers grazing their cattle on land that the Pokomo say is theirs.

Settled Pokomo farmers and semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists have been clashing for the past few years over land issues and water while police have been trying to disarm the two tribes.

The UN says the violence may be due to the redrawing of political boundaries ahead of next year's general election.

The last election in 2007 was marred by ethnic violence. More than 1,300 people were killed, mainly in the Rift Valley in western Kenya, writes BBC News.