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Kenyan PM: Nairobi Blast an Act of Terrorism

  • Gabe Joselow

Fire consumes a clothing stall after an explosion at a shopping complex in Nairobi, Kenya, May 28, 2012.

Fire consumes a clothing stall after an explosion at a shopping complex in Nairobi, Kenya, May 28, 2012.

NAIROBI - An explosion tore through a clothing shop in downtown Nairobi Monday. Police say at least 28 people were injured, but the cause of the blast was not immediately known.

Shop explosion

Broken glass from the exploded shop window was spread across Moi Avenue in downtown Nairobi, as firefighters worked to extinguish the smoldering wreckage.

Thousands of people gathered at the scene of the blast, which destroyed the inside of the store. Police struggled to control the crowds as ambulances carried away the victims.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is running for president in next year's election, spoke to reporters at the scene, and suggested the explosion was a terrorist attack. “Our enemies are going to try to continue in an effort to try to scare us. But we are saying that we will not be scared,” he stated.

Video of Kenya blast, comments from Odinga, Deputy PM Musaila Mudavadi

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Police blame electrical fault

Police initially said the blast was caused by an electrical fault. A spokesperson for Kenya Power told local media that was impossible, as there was no electrical transformer in the building.

At the time of reporting, there was no official verification of what caused the blast, but witnesses at the scene say they are certain it was an attack.

Michael Otieno, visiting Nairobi from western Kenya, was shopping downtown at the time. “You could easily tell it was an attack," he said. The girls from the other stalls, because you know there are many stalls inside there, they were screaming and they were all saying there has been a bomb. Some are trying to find out if there's some of their friends left inside, and they're all screaming trying to see what was happening in the place.”

There have been several grenade attacks targeting civilians in the Kenyan capital during the past year, including an incident at a church last month that killed one person.

Others have been killed in similar attacks in the coastal city of Mombasa and in northeastern Kenya near the border with Somalia.

Kenya officials blame terrorism

Kenyan officials have blamed Somali militants or their sympathizers for past attacks.

Nairobi businessman John Ongicho does not speculate about who may behind the violence, but worries that it is part of an unsettling pattern. “I think everything is just messed up in the world that we are living in today," he noted. "Something is happening, weird.”

Whether terrorism or a freak accident, Monday's explosion has left Kenya on edge.