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Explosion rips through Eastleigh matatu

At least four people were killed and more than 35 injured when an explosive device went off inside a matatu near Pangani Girls School in Nairobi.

The explosion caused tension in the area  on Saturday night as a mob blocked parts of Juja Road and attacked a section of residents. Police, however, dispersed the group.

The number 6 matatu that plies the Eastleigh route was headed to the City Centre at about 6pm when the suspected terrorist attack occurred.

Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo confirmed that four people died from the attack. However, there were unconfirmed reports that three more people had died at Guru Nanak hospital while undergoing treatment.

“I am certain that four people have died. However, we do not have the exact figures of those injured until we ascertain the numbers from hospitals where they were taken,” Mr Iringo said.

The explosion blew off part of the matatu. At least six vehicles nearby were affected by the blast, which was heard more than 10 kilometres from the scene. One of those killed was in a saloon car which was following the matatu.

Ms Florence Ngina, who was among the first people at the scene, said she counted at least 10 bodies.

Other witnesses described the scene as chaotic as police and well-wishers stopped vehicles to ferry the injured to hospital.

Nairobi County police commander Benson Kibue said preliminary investigations showed the blast was caused by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

“The indications are that this was a very powerful IED. It was either planted there or somebody inside the matatu was carrying it and died along with the other passengers. We are yet to find out that,” he said, giving the possibility of a suicide attack.

The Interior ministry tweeted on its official account yesterday that one of the suspected assailants died in the attack.

A police source, however, said investigators were pursuing the possibility of a grenade attack.

The Kenya Red Cross confirmed that those injured had been taken to Kenyatta, Aga Khan and Guru Nanak hospitals.

The Sunday Nation established that at least 20 people were admitted to Guru Nanak hospital with others being taken to Kenyatta National Hospital.

An attendant at the City Mortuary confirmed two bodies had been received at the facility, while sources at Guru Nanak said there were three bodies there. This put the number to five, one more than the official figure released by the time of going to press.

Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero last night sent condolences to the families and friends of the dead, and wished the injured a quick recovery. He asked city residents to be vigilant.

“We need to cooperate with law enforcers in identifying and reporting threats in our midst to prevent these attacks that lead to loss of life. We should continuously remain vigilant against those who seek to perpetrate violence and murder,” Mr Kidero tweeted.

Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, who visited the scene, condemned the attack and asked the government to foot hospital bills for the injured.

The suspected terror attack comes less than three months after the deadly Westgate mall siege on September 21 that left 67 people dead.

Survivors

At Kenyatta National Hospital, survivors of the grenade attack received treatment for leg and head injuries. Medics at the hospital said eight of the survivors had serious injuries while two sustained slight injuries.

Concerned friends and relatives camped at the hospital to get updates on state of their loves ones.

On Saturday evening security agencies sealed off part of the busy Juja Road, where the explosion occurred, as bomb experts and scene of crime analysts moved in to examine the debris.

Officers from Pangani police station and their counterparts from the General Service Unit and anti-terror unit were at the scene. There were also increased police patrols in the area any trouble after riots earlier in the night.

Police were Saturday night pursuing two preliminary motives behind the attack.  Sources in the anti-terrorism unit told Sunday Nation that they had narrowed down the motive to either an Al Shabaab terror attack or matatu rivalry.