welve people were killed and over 80 wounded in two bomb attacks in Gikomba market, Nairobi, on Friday.
According to police, the blasts were caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that were about 70 metres apart. The interval between the blasts was two minutes.
Nairobi County police commander Benson Kibue said detectives were questioning two suspects arrested at the scene by members of the public shortly after the blasts. “They were positively identified and are in police custody,” Mr Kibue said, adding that the police had rescued the suspects from an angry mob.
Accounts of eye witnesses interviewed by the Nation were contradictory and police had not linked the suspects to the blasts, although the two were reportedly apprehended as they attempted to escape amid the confusion.
The first blast went off near a structure where people were buying second-hand clothes. Two men and a woman were killed on the spot while about thirty others were injured.
A 14-seater matatu that was ferrying passengers was thrown off the road and its windows shattered. The passengers sustained shrapnel injuries especially on the face and chest and all four of the matatu’s tyres were deflated.
As people fled towards Pumwani Road, the second blast went off, killing one person immediately and injuring 40 others.
The two blasts left two holes about 30 centimetres deep and 45 centimetres wide in the ground.
Police had difficulty controlling the crowd that assembled at the scene. Second-hand clothes, some soaked in blood, were strewn all over the scene, while some could be seen hanging on the overhead electricity lines.
Mr Fred Majiwa from the Kenya Red Cross confirmed that dozens of people who were injured were rushed to Kenyatta and Guru Nanak Hospitals where they are undergoing treatment.
Mr Stanley Karanja, the owner of a kiosk next to the scene of the blasts, said he heard a bang and thought at first it was a car tyre that had exploded.
“Then I heard the second explosion only this time round it was louder than the first one. I saw several bodies lying on the ground and clothes hovering in the air,” he said.
A saloon car parked next to where one of the devices went off was also wrecked by the device.
Another businessman, Mr Peter Ndegwa, who escaped the attack said that the assailants were dressed normally but among the ones arrested was a man of Somali origin.
“I sell shoes next to my friend who has just passed on; he was completely shattered by the explosion. Emotions flared up after seeing how easily I lost my friend, we should have been allowed to lynch the two who are now in police custody,” he said.
He added that people started rushing to the scene and minutes after, a second blast was heard. “Less than two minutes when people have already gathered up to get a closer look of what was happening the second explosion was heard.”
The attacks come days after several countries issued new warnings against travelling in Kenya amid a wave of bombings and attempted bombings in both Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa.
Earlier this month three people were killed and 86 wounded in twin bus blasts in Nairobi that were blamed on Islamic militant cells connected with Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab rebels. The previous day, twin attacks left four dead in Mombasa.
Kenya has been targeted by Al-Shabaab since sending troops to war-torn Somalia in 2011. Kenyan soldiers are still posted in southern Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting the country’s fragile internationally-backed government.
On Thursday and Friday, hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near Mombasa because of the travel warnings.
British travellers have been told by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to avoid “all but essential” visits to Mombasa, impacting links to nearby white-sand beach resorts.
The Kenyan government has expressed “disappointment” and has accused countries that are telling tourists to stay away of “unfriendly acts”.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attacks.