Blast follows Kenyan air raid in Somalia

One soldier dead and four others injured as bomb hits army vehicle, shortly after attacks on al-Shabab bases.

Kenya troops
Children have been among those injured during recent attacks in Kenya’s northern town of Garissa [Reuters]

Two grenade attacks in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa, close to the border to Somalia, have killed three people and injured 27, police said.

One explosion on Thursday in the local Holiday Inn killed two people while another on a street killed a third, a local police officer who asked not to be named told AFP, adding that 12 of the injured were in a serious condition.

“Two people died at the new Holiday Inn hotel known as Kwa Chege. Another died at a Ngamia road blast,” the police officer said.

“Twenty-seven people were injured in total, 12 of them seriously and 15 sustaining minor injuries.”

Asked what caused the blasts he said: “These were grenades”, adding that most of the wounded suffered shrapnel injuries. Another police source said however that only two people were killed.

Local resident Hussein Abdi, contacted by AFP news agency by telephone, described scenes of panic in the centre of the town where the blasts occurred, with people trying to escape from the scene of the attacks.

Garissa is the capital of Northeast province, 330km northeest of Nairobi. The town lies just 100km from the Somali border and 70km from Dadaab, a complex of Somali refugee camps.

Nairobi sent troops and tanks into neighbouring Somalia in mid-October to fight insurgents who it accuses of staging a series of attacks on Kenyan soil.

Since the deployment, the northeast of the country has been the focus for a series of attacks blamed by Kenyan authorities on sympathisers of the al-Shabab group which controls large areas of central and southern Somalia.

Kenya earlier on Thursday said its fighter jets had destroyed two suspected al-Shabab bases in neighbouring Somalia, but that a bomb back on home soil has killed a soldier and wounded four others.

“KDF (Kenya Defence Force) air strikes successfully destroyed two al-Shabaab camps,” Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the Kenyan army spokesman, said , a day after the attacks near Badade, about 30km from the Kenyan border.

Attackers opened fire on the soldiers after the blast, which happened near the Kenyan border town of Mandera, according to a senior police officer speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kenyan officials have blamed al-Shabaab or their sympathisers for a spate of recent shootings and bombings, although armed bandits also operate in the border areas.

Growing pressure

The group faces growing pressure as regional armies slowly encircle them, with Kenyan forces in the south, Ugandan and Burundian African Union forces in Mogadishu and Ethiopian troops in the west.

The conflict, however, comes at a cost for civilians caught up in the skirmishes.

The UN said on Thursday that Ethiopia’s reported deployment of troops into Somalia could worsen what is already the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.

“Local sources report that hundreds of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia on November 20 opening a new front against al-Shabaab,” the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.

“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the consequences that this intervention could have on the already fragile humanitarian situation due to access to the population.

“The intensification of the conflict in Somalia threatens to increase internal displacement.”

UN warning

It is for the first time the UN has warned of the potentially dangerous consequences of Ethiopia’s move.

Nearly 250,000 people in south and central Somalia face imminent starvation, the UN report said, despite massive international efforts to get emergency aid out to critically affected regions of the war-torn country.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency on November 19 that convoys of lorries and hundreds of Ethiopian troops crossed into south and central Somalia. Ethiopia has denied the reports.

Ethiopia pulled out its soldiers from Somalia in 2009 after a two-year invasion that defeated the Islamist rulers, but their military wing, al-Shabaab, regrouped and has waged a bloody war against a provisional government backed by the UN.

Source: News Agencies