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By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) - One of Kenya's most prominent conservationists said on Thursday she was repeatedly shot at when she ran to her baby as armed men set fire to a lodge near her home in the drought-striken north, where such attacks are becoming increasingly frequent.

Residents say politicians hoping to win votes in an August election are encouraging herdsmen desperate for grazing to bring tens of thousands of cattle into the area.

"Yesterday evening our operations buildings and our house came under direct gunfire from armed men," Sveva Gallmann said in a statement released after Wednesday night's attack.

"My nine-month-old daughter was in the house with her carers and I was shot at three times as I ran between the buildings to get to her."

The Gallmann family own the 100,000-acre (400 square kilometre) Laikipia Nature Conservancy and employ 250 Kenyans on the luxury lodges, ranch, and other businesses on the land.

This month, the government announced it would send troops to the area after herdsmen shot dead a British military veteran who ran a safari company in Kenya when he went to inspect a friend's house that had been burnt down.

Kenya has a history of ethnic clashes and political violence. The last election, in 2013, passed relatively peacefully but more than 1,200 people were killed following a disputed poll in 2007.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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