Somali Islamists suspected as blast in Nairobi shopping complex injures 27
Daniel Howden is Africa Correspondent for The Independent. He has reported from more than 50 countries covering everything from wars and elections to natural disasters and environmental crises. Special interests beyond Africa include southeast Europe, Latin America and global forests. A former Athens correspondent he has returned to Greece regularly during the European debt crisis. Now based in Nairobi, he acted as producer on the documentary 'Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy', winner of the Boccalino D'Oro prize at the 2012 Locarno film festival.
Tuesday 29 May 2012
Investigators in Nairobi are trying to establish the cause of a blast that wounded at least two dozen people and destroyed a complex of shops in a city that has been on red alert for a possible terrorist strike.
The explosion at lunchtime was heard right across the Kenyan capital and drew crowds of people who helped to carry the injured from the wreckage. Confusion followed as the police said the blast may have been caused by an electrical fault while the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, initially blamed terrorists. "This is a heinous act," Mr Odinga told reporters at the scene, soon after the blast. "They want to scare us but we will not be scared."
Since Kenya sent troops into neighbouring Somalia last year at least 10 people have been killed in a series of grenade attacks blamed by authorities on Somali Islamist extremists, al-Shabaab.
A column of black smoke rose into the sky from the capital's central business district and clothes and shoes were scattered among the broken glass across one of the city's main avenues after the blast destroyed a single-storey building housing small shops. Hospitals nearby took in 27 casualties, four in a critical condition.
The absence of shrapnel at the scene initially led police to suspect an electrical fault, but firemen later said they had found a small crater near the front of the complex, and officials from the power company who examined the site ruled out electrical problems. Orwa Ojode from the internal security ministry said: "Police are investigating the possibilities of a grenade attack."
Traders from the complex where the blast occurred told reporters they had seen a "bearded man" leave a bag at one of the stalls just before the explosion, but this has yet to be confirmed.
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