NAIROBI, Kenya – An explosion ripped through a building full of small shops indowntown Nairobi on Monday, injuring at least 33 people, includinga woman who blamed the blast on a "bearded man" who left behind abag shortly before the detonation. Police officials first indicated the explosion could have beencaused by some sort of electrical malfunction but the primeminister said it was deliberate. Al-Shabab — an Islamistmilitant group from Somalia — has threatened to carry outsuch an attack. "This is a heinous act," Prime Minister Raila Odinga said whilevisiting the scene of the blast. "They want to scare us. |
But wewill not be scared." The explosion sent dark smoke billowing out of a one-story buildingon Moi Avenue, named after Kenya's second president. The blastpeeled back the front corner of the building's aluminum roof,shattered windows in the building and scattered shoes, clothes andother wares on the ground. A high-rise building with a glassexterior next door was largely untouched. Speaking to The Associated Press from a Nairobi hospital bed, IreneWachira said a bearded man came to a nearby stall three times andacted as if he were interested in buying something.
Wachira saidthe third time he came with a bag that he left behind. The blastoccurred shortly afterward, she said. Wachira, a vendor in the building, described the man as"Arabic-looking" because of his relatively light skin. A doctortold AP that another person wounded in the blast said aSomali-looking man left behind the bag. The doctor said he couldnot be quoted by name.
Police officials who first responded hesitated to blame terrorism,given the lack of shrapnel. Kenya Power ruled out an electricalfault as the cause. The national electricity agency said thebuilding had no ground-mounted transformer that would explode anddetermined that all electrical connections to the building thatwould blow in a short circuit remained intact. The police later released a statement saying that the cause of theexplosion had not yet been established. Police are investigatingthe possibility that an improvised explosive device caused theblast, though the police said it was unlikely a conventional bombhad been used.
After the explosion, bloodied people received medical care on thestreet as authorities tried to usher hundreds of people away. Thescene was played out just a few blocks from where the U.S. Embassyhad been destroyed by a truck bomb in 1998. Al-Qaida'snear-simultaneous attacks on the U.S.
embassies in Nairobi and Dares Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people. Odinga said security would be improved downtown and that the Somalimilitants, who are linked to al-Qaida, "want to scare investors.They want to scare tourists." "We condemn the terrorists and tell them their days are numbered,"said Odinga, who is expected to run for president in next year'selection. Al-Shabab threaten to carry out large-scale attacks here followedKenya's decision last October to send troops into Somalia to pursuethe Islamist militants. Kenya said back then that it was sending inthe troops as a response to kidnappings on Kenyan soil last yearblamed on al-Shabab. The kidnappings caused tourism in Kenya toplummet, especially around the coastal resort of Lamu.
Since October, a series of grenade attacks has rocked Kenya. Thelatest happened Saturday night in the sprawling Dadaab refugee campnear the Somali border. Six people were injured in two simultaneousgrenades blasts, officials said. The police said at least 33 people were wounded in Monday'sexplosion, including five with serious injuries such as burns,fractures and deep lacerations. None of the victims sufferedshrapnel wounds, said Thomas Mutie, the acting chief executive atKenyatta National Hospital.
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