NAIROBI, Kenya Kenyan authorities have released many of the children imprisoned in a crackdown against a brutal militia in the west of the country, a human rights advocate and a detention official said Friday.
Rights defender Martin Wanyonyi said a 14-year-old released Friday was the last of 32 children held in Bungoma prison. The Associated Press last week documented the children's charges of torture by the military since the crackdown began in March.
An employee at another detention center said most of the children where he worked had also been released, although a few remained in custody. "They have been letting them go in batches," he said.
He asked that The Associated Press provide no further details to protect him and the children from reprisals.
During an investigation by the AP, dozens of detained children exhibited scars they said were caused when soldiers beat them and tortured them using pliers, barbed wire and clubs. Local human rights officials documented the horrific conditions the wounded children were held in, packed so tightly in complete darkness there was no room even to lie down to sleep.
The government and military previously denied all knowledge of torture or imprisonment of children with adults. They could not be reached for comment on the releases.
All the children were released after their families posted bond for them, Wanyonyi and the official said. They are among scores of children charged with "promoting warlike activities," but a local official told Wanyonyi none of them was likely to face trial since no one had sworn statements against them.
Some children had told AP previously that their parents had been killed by the military or militia and they had no one left who could get them out of prison.
The children were arrested during a crackdown on the Sabaot Land Defense Force, a militia dedicated to grabbing land for a Kenyan sub-clan. Ethnically based land grievances was one of the key contributors to postelection violence earlier this year in the east African nation, when disputed polls sparked clashes that claimed more than 1,000 lives.
According to local and international human rights monitors, the SLDF is responsible for hundreds of murders over the past two years and is notorious for torturing and mutilating its victims. It also regularly abducts children and forces them to fight, victims say.
Police, local officials and the government spokesman could not be reached for comment on the releases. The government previously denied torturing any children or imprisoning them with adults, despite being provided with details by reporters.
Officials at other detention centers where children had been held were also unavailable for comment.