There was widespread anger and disbelief in the Kenyan capital yesterday after a grenade was thrown into a Sunday school, leaving one child dead and several injured.
Suspicion fell on Somali Islamists al-Shabaab and a dozen injuries were reported in reprisal attacks in the Somali-dominated Eastleigh neighbourhood in Nairobi.
The explosion in a makeshift classroom next to a school in an outlying neighbourhood of the city comes as the Kenyan army continues its assault on al-Shabaab's stronghold in the Somali port city of Kismayo. There have been a string of grenade attacks in Kenya this year, usually blamed on Somali militants, despite suggestions that some incidents may have been clashes between rival gangs.
A class of children were going through the Sunday school lessons next to an Anglican church when the grenade went off. Kenya's Red Cross said at least six children were critically injured in the blast and that one of them died later in hospital. A witness who helped to ferry four of the children to a nearby hospital said she had not seen the attacker but described the blast that ripped away the classroom's sheet-metal walls as "emotional and scary".
Irene Wambui, who was in the church at the time of the attack, told reporters: "We were just worshipping God in church when suddenly we heard an explosion and people started running for their lives."
Nairobi's acting police chief, Moses Ombati, said he suspected supporters of al-Shabaab were responsible for the blast. He appealed for calm after reports that a mosque had been attacked after the earlier explosion.
Kenya's fast-growing capital has been braced for a major terrorist attack since the country sent troops into neighbouring Somalia last year. Kenyan police last week announced the seizure of a haul of weapons and explosives they claim were due to be used by al-Shabaab sympathisers. The World Cup bombing in Uganda's capital Kampala two years ago which killed 72 people is fresh in everyone's memories.
Kenya's forces – now folded into the African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom) – reached the last large urban stronghold of the Islamic militia in Kismayo on Friday. Most al-Shabaab forces are reported to have left the port city but the Kenyan navy kept up its bombardment yesterday as troops cautiously advance on the city centre.