DECEMBER 3, 2010 When the jarring sounds of explosions that twice broke the eerie calm of two Nairobi estates seven hours apart went silent, three officers had been robbed of their lives. And last night, a nation was left in shock and consternation at the motive of the dastardly Rambo-style attacks, the level of sophistication, and whether the two incidents were linked. In Eastleigh, the explosion ripped through the streets in the heavy 9am traffic and left an officer fatally wounded and another injured as pandemonium broke out, with pedestrians and motorists using any available opening to escape.
AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua addresses journalists at Eastleigh in Nairobi after an officer was killed in an explosion, Friday.[PHOTO: JOHN MUCHUCHA/STANDARD]
It did not matter whether the opening was large enough… The scene was akin to what is witnessed in the lawless fields of Somalia after unknown attackers hurled a grenade at a police vehicle, ripping off its front part and throwing the officers out.
Shot in the air And even before the dust settled, Kenya’s security machinery was thrown into a spin after two other officers met the same wrath from attackers at 4pm in Roysambu. Riding a speeding motorcycle, the assailants shot in the air, then hurled hand grenades at the officers at the Roysambu roundabout. The officers had been going about their normal duties and had flagged down a motorcycle rider ferrying a passenger, only to be met with sounds of gunfire and exploding grenades as the assailants sped off. The police, however, tracked down the assailants and shot them dead five kilometres from the scene as they sped towards Quarry area. They recovered a gun. In Nairobi’s populous Eastleigh area, Corporal Erastus Kamau died in hospital where he had been rushed for treatment. Witnesses at the scene said the Administration Policeman was in a police Land Rover when they were caught in a traffic jam. They were coming from Nyayo House, where they had gone to pick some documents. Jump out One of the witnesses said Kamau, who was attached to the Embakasi DC’s office, stepped out of the Land Rover to direct overlapping traffic. When he went back into the car, an assailant threw what seemed to be a grenade inside the driver’s cabin and there was smoke and an explosion followed by a stampede of people and vehicles. “But I did not see the person who threw it. All I remember is seeing the officer come out and go back to the vehicle and the explosion,” said the witness who identified himself as Ngugi. He said that in the confusion, the driver jumped out and ran for about 50m where he started making calls. The driver went back to the car as a crowd gathered and started shouting that Kamau be taken to hospital. They drove the injured officer to a nearby Chief’s Camp, where he was put in another vehicle and rushed to hospital. He died while undergoing treatment. The Land Rover, whose front passenger seat was ripped off, windscreen and roof destroyed, was removed from the scene an hour later. AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua termed the incident “an act of terrorism” and vowed authorities would get to the bottom of it. “This can be taken as an act of terror because of the manner in which it has happened. A life has been lost and two others injured,” he said. The slain officer’s official left boot was still in the bloodstained Land Rover long after the incident. Two other people, including the driver whose hearing was affected, were injured by pellets from the explosive and were taken to hospital for treatment. Mr Eliud Langat, a senior officer at the CID headquarters’ Bomb and Disposal Unit, said they had collected grenade parts from both incidents. “These are grenades but we are yet to know the origin and motive of the attacks,” he said. Nairobi Area PCIO Peter Muinde said preliminary findings indicated an explosive was thrown into the car. “We are still pursuing various angles, including one that the device was dropped into the Land Rover,” he said. Bomb experts combed the scene looking for clues that could help them unravel the incident. Grenade attacks are not common in the country, and Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere ordered speedy investigations into the cowardly attacks. He is scheduled to address the Press today.