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December 20, 2010

Police Searching for Answers After Nairobi Explosion

by Michael Onyiego

Kenyan police are investigating possible links to terrorist groups after a bus station blast killed one and injured more than 40 people in Nairobi.

A small bomb exploded about 8 p.m. local time Monday just outside of a bus station in Nairobi's River Road area as passengers were boarding a bus bound for Kampala, Uganda.

The blast shattered the windows on one side of a large passenger bus parked near the side of the road. Even after the injured had been removed from the scene, broken glass, shoes, and pools of blood in the middle of the road offered evidence of the destruction.

At a press conference Tuesday in Nairobi, Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe explained how the bomb was detonated during a routine security check.

"One person carrying a paper bag became extremely nervous during the course of the inspection," said Kiraithe. "In the process, the said passenger dropped the paper bag on the ground and immediately thereafter there was a loud explosion. The explosion injured the said passenger, other passengers and passersby."

According to Kiraithe, the suspect injured in the blast later died after being taken to a nearby hospital. Another 41 people were injured in the blast.

The suspect has been identified as Albert John Olanda, who entered Kenya from Tanzania on October 23. At the time of the blast, he was found carrying only a passport and a notebook with several mobile phone numbers.

A second suspect has been taken into custody by police after being arrested in Nairobi's Kibera slum. Kiraithe said he was being interrogated for any further information on the blast.

This is the second attack that has occurred in Nairobi in the month of December. Three Kenyan police officers were killed in two separate grenade attacks on December 3 in Nairobi's Eastleigh neighborhood. While no connection has yet been established between the two, Kiraithe revealed the Russian made grenade that exploded last night was similar to those used in early December.

The Kenyan government reportedly has reached out to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for help in probing the attacks.

Olanda was en route to the Ugandan capital, which officials believe was the intended site of the attack. Kampala also was the site of twin suicide blasts in July, which killed 74. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Somali insurgent group al Shabab. Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida, claimed the act was retaliation for Ugandan peacekeeping troops in Mogadishu.

It is not yet known whether the Nairobi explosions are the work of al Shabab, but Kiraithe said the security services are concerned with the increasing amount of Somalis and Ethiopians illegally entering the country.