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Explosions Kill 5 at Kenyan Political Rally

  • Mike Sunderland

Kenyan officials say five people have died and at least 75 others were wounded after explosions rocked a prayer rally in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Witnesses say the blasts ripped through dense crowds in the city's Uhuru Park during a meeting arranged by church leaders to rally opposition to the country's proposed new constitution.

Outside Nairobi's Kenyatta Hospital, a man who says he was at the park says he heard two separate blasts. "There was an explosion from the left side. We thought maybe it was just a truck or just a tire. Then we saw some people injured, and there was a bomb there. After another two minutes, another explosion kicked off," he said.

Some witnesses say they heard three blasts, but Kenyan authorities have not confirmed these reports.

Dr. Peter Wanyoike, who is coordinating the emergency response at Kenyatta Hospital, says there has been a range of injuries.

"We have four of them going for emergency surgery who have blunt abdominal injuries. We have other patients who have fractures. But most of the patients, other than those who are very serious, most of them have soft tissue injuries. What I would like to say is that for now, we are coping with the situation," he said.

Witnesses and Kenyan television say the blasts were caused by gasoline bombs. Although it is unclear what caused the explosions, Prime Minister Raila Odinga condemned the incident.

Kenya is set to vote in a referendum on a new constitution in August. The incident is raising some fears of a return to political violence -- some two-and-a-half years after weeks of fighting left about 1,300 people dead in the wake of a disputed Presidential election.

The incident comes only days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited the country and urged Kenyans to cast aside religious and ethnic differences to usher in a new constitution.

Kenya's Minister for Internal Security George Saitoti appealed for calm as police investigate the incident. "I would like to ask for patience while the government is carrying out a full investigation to be able to determine the manner in which these crimes were committed and who was behind it," he said.

Recent public opinion surveys show that majority of Kenyans favor of the new constitution. But those who oppose it, including many Christian leaders who are unhappy about certain elements like the weakening of anti-abortion laws, have contested the veracity of opinion polls.

Kenya's president and prime minister support the proposed new constitution.