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Blast Kills Boy at Church in Kenya

Sunday, September 30, 2012

MOMBASA, Kenya — A 9-year-old boy was killed and several other children were wounded on Sunday when a grenade was hurled into a church in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, two days after Kenyan forces invaded the last major stronghold of the Shabab militant group in Somalia.

No suspects have been apprehended, but suspicion immediately focused on sympathizers of the Shabab who have attacked several churches and public gathering spots in Kenya in the last year.

Kenyan officials have said that they do not believe that the relatively small attacks are the work of the Shabab, whose fighters have killed hundreds of people in Somalia with huge suicide bombs. However, the Shabab enjoy some support in Kenya, and as the Kenyan military pushes deeper into Somalia, Kenyan officials have been bracing for reprisal attacks.

On Friday, the Kenyan military staged an amphibious assault on Kismayu, a vital port for the Shabab that the militants once relied on to import arms and generate money, helping them control large swaths of Somalia. But the Shabab have been steadily losing territory in the last year, and they opted to melt away rather than go toe to toe with the better-equipped Kenyan army, which has been operating in Somalia as part of a larger African Union stabilization force.

By Sunday morning, Kismayu residents said few, if any, Shabab fighters were seen in town, though the Kenyan army had not secured all areas and anarchy seemed to be spreading, with looting and killings reported.

The grenade attack on the church happened at 10:30 a.m. near Eastleigh, the neighborhood in Nairobi with the most Somalis. Shrapnel drilled into several children, including the 9-year-old boy, who died from his wounds.

“It’s unfortunate that these people are even attacking innocent children,” Kenya’s police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, said. “Such an attack should not have occurred. We have heightened our security surveillance to ensure no further such attacks recur.”

Shortly after the grenade exploded, an irate mob turned on Somali bystanders who live nearby. The mob then tried to attack a mosque but police officers intervened and drove them away.

Reuben Kyama contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya.


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