Story highlights

NEW: The Red Cross says 52 people were killed

The victims belonged to a community of semi-nomadic cattle herders

Farmers attacked because their land had been invaded by the herders

Police are patrolling the area

Nairobi, Kenya CNN  — 

Tensions between semi-nomadic cattle herders and farmers in southeast Kenya sparked an attack on the herders Wednesday that left as many as 52 people dead, officials said.

A majority of those killed were women and children, police said.

The tensions and rivalry that resulted in the violence have been ongoing for decades in the Tana River area, said Joseph Kitur, deputy provincial police officer in Kenya’s Coast Province.

The most recent clashes began last week when the Orma, a community of semi-nomadic herders, invaded farms belonging to the Pokomo.

The Pokomo responded by attacking Orma huts Wednesday morning, killing 31 women, 11 children and six men, Kitur said. The Kenyan Red Cross put the number of fatalities higher, at 52. Forty-three of the victims had deep cuts and nine were burned, the Red Cross said through its Twitter account.

The farmers also captured 200 cattle belonging to the Orma.

Police were patrolling the area to prevent any further clashes, Kitur said.