Military joins hunt for Nairobi park bombers
The Kenyan Government on Monday called in the military to help investigate a grenade attack on a crusade at Uhuru Park on Sunday in which six people were killed and 104 injured.
Military personnel will work with officers from the Criminal Investigations Department and the General Service Unit. So far, investigations have confirmed that three grenades were lobbed into the crowd. Investigators have already recovered pins, a security feature in a grenade which arms the device when it is removed, and the tail sections. The tails confirmed that stun grenades were used against the worshippers.
The government, which believes that someone planned the mass murder of Kenyans, has moved with rare determination. The National Security Council met on Monday under the chairmanship of the President and appeared to have resolved to go out of its way to reassure the public.
Police confirmed that they had found a man dead behind the wheel of a car at Uhuru Park. They said he was either in his late thirties or early forties and still had his car keys. The man had injuries caused by a grenade and still had his mobile phone. Investigators do not know if he was an innocent bystander who was trying to get to hospital after being injured.
There was strong suspicion that he was one of three attackers and that his mobile phone will provide useful leads. Police said three explosions took place within a span of 20 minutes and that they believed the attack was executed by three people. Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said the dead man’s mobile phone might hold the key to tracing the key suspects behind the deadly attacks.
Mr Iteere made the revelation to Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and other senior government officials when they visited the scene. He said there was a likelihood that the man may have been injured by the grenade — when he detonated it or was injured by it — and then hurried to the car in a bid to escape.
Mr Iteere said the first blast happened in the middle of a large crowd of worshippers and pointed to a hole in the ground to show the severity of the grenade. In all, there were three explosions that happened within a radius of 150 metres. Musicians Rufftone (Smith Mwatia) and Jimmy Gait (James Mutheremu), were about to pick up their microphones and start entertaining the huge crowd that had turned up for the televangelists crusade at Uhuru Park when an explosion halted the function.
“I had performed earlier on, at about 4pm, but I was to go on stage again with Jimmy when the blast took place,” Rufftone said. Jimmy remembers seeing the first blast while on stage. “The first explosion came from the extreme left of the stadium, in the terraces where lots of people were seated. I first thought the police had fired gunshots to disperse the crowed.
A few minutes later, a number of injured people had been brought on stage to be prayed for,” Jimmy said, adding that another massive explosion was to follow minutes later, throwing the huge crowd into panic. According to the musician, even the people who were helping the injured victims fled immediately after the second blast.
According to Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of the Jesus is Alive Ministries, the blast happened as the clergy were at the dais praying for the sick and those with other problems. “It sounded like a grenade, but as we were trying to deal with it, another object was thrown from the right in the direction of the dais,” she said.
The second bang was louder than the first and more people were injured by that and the stampede that followed, she said. “It seems they were aiming at us because the first object was stopped by a lamp post.”
Apostle Francis Musili, of the Around The Globe Ministries, said “when we heard the first blast from the left of the dais, one of the pastors (I think it was Pius Muiru) suggested somebody was playing with fireworks”. “Apostle James Ng’ang’a continued praying and asked for a curse on those behind the act, while asking the crowd to move closer and for those involved to be prayed for.”
“But when I saw the extent of the injuries on those being brought (to the dais), I said prayer would not do and they would have to be taken to hospital.” The second explosion, he said, came after a few minutes and this was louder and he saw a lot of people fall down.
“I am not sure about it but it appeared something was thrown into the crowd,” he said, adding, “there was a stampede after that and we all headed for safety and our vehicles”. Bishop Mark Kariuki of Deliverance Church said he had just made an announcement and somebody was praying when hell broke loose.
“When we heard the first explosion on the left, somebody suggested it was a shattering bulb or a burst tyre but I saw some smoke,” he said. “We asked for the injured to be brought forward and that was going on when we realised it was much more serious than we had imagined as there was a lot of blood.”
“There was a second, bigger explosion and I suspect something was thrown into the crowd. Everybody scattered from the scene and we headed for our vehicles.” The man police found in a car parked 100 metres away from the blast scenes had pellet wounds.
A key the man was holding has also been taken for tests at the Government Chemist to check for traces of the explosives as were some samples taken from the crater where the first muffled explosion occurred. He is reported to have sustained serious injuries and walked to the car in which he died before he could drive off.
The investigators are looking for the registered owner of the vehicle. Detectives have also taken samples from the body of a man whose bottom and private parts were blown off by the explosion, killing him. Owing to the injuries they sustained, the two dead people are believed to have been closest to the explosion either as perpetrators or victims.
Police suspect that more than two people were involved in the incident and are reviewing video footage of the commotion after the first explosion. Early on Monday, detectives led by the head of the Anti-Terrorism Unit, Mr Nicholas Kamwende, and the head of Investigations Bureau at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters, Mr Gideon Kimilu, converged at the scene of crime to begin investigations into the incident.
“We have collected some little evidence but are looking for more,” Mr Kamwende said. Mr Kamwende, Mr Kimilu and the Criminal Intelligence Unit boss Mr Maalim Ahmed held a brief meeting at the scene before quickly driving back to their offices. Earlier, Mr Iteere and the director-general of the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS), Maj General Michael Gichangi, visited the scene after a flurry of security meetings including one by the National Security Council.
President Kibaki ordered all security agencies to investigate the explosion. A team of detectives from all the security agencies in the country was been assembled to investigate the explosion and hand in its report as soon as possible.
By Dominic Wabala, Samuel Siringi, John Ngirachu and John Muchiri