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Five killed in Nairobi grenade blast

posted 18 Nov 2012, 13:16 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Nov 2012, 13:17 ]

A grenade tears through a minibus in Nairobi's Somali-dominated Eastleigh neighbourhood on Sunday, killing at least five people.

NAIROBIKENYA (NOVEMBER 18, 2012) (REUTERS) -  At least five people were killed when a blast tore through a minibus in Nairobi's Somali-dominated Eastleigh neighbourhood on Sunday (November 18), in an attack that highlighted the security risks Kenya faces over its foray in Somalia to fight Islamist militants.

Kenya has suffered a string of deadly attacks in its capital Nairobi, the southern port city of Mombasa as well as the eastern garrison town of Garissa over the past year.

The attacks have been blamed on Somali militants and their sympathisers in retaliation for Kenya's decision to send troops into neighbouring Somalia last year to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants which Nairobi has blamed for attacks on its territory.

The cause of the blast on Sunday was not immediately clear, but police said preliminary investigations indicated it was a grenade attack.

The force of the explosion left only the charred skeleton of the minibus, the orange seats ripped apart. The windows of a nearby cafe was shattered and two other cars were damaged.

The driver of the minibus, Bernard Kibe, said his vehicle was filled to capacity when the blast went off.

"I just heard a loud bang and all of a sudden realised that I had been lifted off the ground. When I got back on the ground I realised I was alive. I just thank God," said Kibe.

The number of the dead was not immediately clear but the Kenya Red Cross said on its Twitter account that seven people had been killed and 24 people had been taken to hospital.

Nairobi regional police commander Moses Ombati said the grenade had been thrown into the minibus, commonly referred to as matatus in Kenya.

"It was crazy when it happened. We saw some bodies on the ground without arms and legs, there was blood everywhere. It was actually pretty hard to tell who was alive and who was dead, but many were rushed to hospital and there were a lot of deaths as well," said Jijo Onyango, a local resident

The attacks on Kenyan soil have intensified since Kenyan troops, alongside African Union forces, launched an offensive seven weeks ago against al Shabaab's last major urban stronghold, the Somali port of Kismayu, forcing the rebels to flee.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but tensions rose in Eastleigh as witnesses reported Kenyan nationals throwing stones at Somali nationals, blaming them for the attack.

"It is unfortunate that now the people we are hosting are actually turning against us. I think there is a lot of laxity in the side of the government, this is the fourth attack in three weeks. A week back there was another grenade attack in the same area. We have seen police vehicles being attacked. The government has to take responsibility for providing security for its citizens," said Maurice Ouma, a local resident

In September Kenyan police said they seized more than 150 detonators in Nairobi.

In July, masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade attacks on two churches in Garissa, killing at least 17 people.

Armed cattle raiders killed at least 32 Kenyan police officers in a military-style ambush last weekend. That attack exposed how ill-equipped Kenya's police force is, at a time when they are facing new challenges, including a presidential election next March.