Nairobi - A mob torched a church where hundreds had sought refuge Tuesday, and witnesses said dozens of people -- including children -- were burned alive or hacked to death with machetes in ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed election.
The killing of up to 50 ethnic Kikuyus in the Rift Valley city of Eldoret brought the death toll from four days of rioting to more than 275, raising fears of further unrest in the country.
The question facing Kenya is whether the politicians will lose control of the mobs, triggering a civil war.
President Mwai Kibaki, who was swiftly inaugurated for a second term Sunday after a vote that critics said was rigged, called for a meeting with his political opponents -- a significant softening of tone for a man who rarely speaks to the press and who vowed to crack down on rioters.
But opposition candidate Raila Odinga refused, saying he would meet Kibaki only "if he announces that he was not elected." Odinga accused the government of stoking the chaos, saying that Kibaki's administration "is guilty, directly, of genocide."
The violence -- from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast -- has exposed long-festering tribal resentment.
The people killed in Eldoret, about 185 miles northwest of Nairobi, were members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.
They had fled to the Assemblies of God Church on Monday night, seeking refuge after mobs torched homes. Video from a helicopter chartered by the Red Cross showed many homes in flames and the horizon obscured by smoke. Groups of people were seen seeking sanctuary at schools and the airport, while others moved into the forest.
On Tuesday morning, a mob of about 2,000 arrived at the church, said George Karanja, whose family had sought refuge there.
"They started burning the church," Karanja said, his voice catching with emotion as he described the scene. "The mattresses that people were sleeping on caught fire. There was a stampede, and people fell on one another."
Karanja, 37, helped pull out at least 10 people, but added, "I could not manage to pull out my sister's son. He was screaming 'Uncle, uncle!' ... He died." The boy was 11.
Up to 50 people were killed in the attack, said a Red Cross official who spoke on condition of anonymity because her name would identify her tribe, and she feared reprisal. Even first aid workers were stopped by vigilantes who demanded their identity. Numerous blockades along the road to Eldoret increased the dangers of traveling.
Karanja said his two children raised their hands as they left the church and they were beaten with a cane, but not killed. His 90-year-old father was attacked with a machete, but survived, he said.
"The worst part is that they were hacking people and then setting them on fire," he added.
The attackers saw Karanja saving people and began stoning him, he said. Karanja said he ran and hid -- submerging himself in a pit latrine outside the church property. He stayed there about 30 minutes until he heard people speaking Kikuyu, he added.