Police launch search for criminals linked to failed bus bombing bid

What you need to know:

  • Passengers escape death after device fails to go off despite over 40 attempts to trigger it

Police are hunting for suspected terrorists who left a suitcase loaded with explosives inside a mini bus in Nairobi’s Kariobangi estate on Sunday.

The black suitcase remained in the vehicle unattended after all passengers, who had boarded the bus in town, alighted at the end of their journey at Kariobangi roundabout.

Bus conductor Lawrence Rori and the driver opened the bag and despite finding material wrapped in papers, with wires connected to a small Nokia phone, they said they did not suspect it was a bomb.

It was only after some passers-by saw the contents and started shouting bomb! bomb! that everyone scampered for safety.

The shaken crew removed the bag out of the vehicle and placed it inside a roadside kiosk before calling police from nearby Huruma police post. The officers called in a bomb expert to disable the device that had attracted a mammoth crowd.

The expert in protective gear walked into the kiosk, disconnected some of the wires, and walked out carrying the bag to the applause of dozens of onlookers.

Starehe police chief Samuel Anampiu said it was by sheer luck that the improvised explosive device did not go off, despite a suspected terrorist making 45 calls to the phone connected to it in an attempt to blow it up.

“It is by the grace of God that it did not explode when the first call was made because it would have caused heavy casualty,” he said, adding that the phone, which was taken away by the detectives for analysis, also had two text messages sent to it.

Part of exhibits taken away by police included small four bundles of suspected explosive materials believed to be fertiliser bound together with cello tape, with tens of ball bearings stashed inside apparently to aid the fragmentation of the bomb on exploding, and cause maximum casualties.

A black suicide bomber vest with batteries and two sets of switches were also found inside the bag.

Deputy head of bomb police department Eliud Langat said the explosive material weighed about 10 kilogrammes and was similar to the one used to blow up a bus in Eastleigh estate early this year— killing nine people and injuring dozens.

Detectives working on the case said the calls and text messages sent to the phone would help in arresting those behind the terror bid.

Elsewhere, dozens of traders in Nairobi’s Mathare 4A area on Sunday complained of massive looting of shops by criminals over alleged dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the election of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ms Ruth Wambui, whose grocery shop was looted at night, said the criminals were targeting shops belonging to their perceived political adversaries.

A heavy contingent of General Service Unit (GSU) officers had been deployed to the area, but residents blamed them for manning shopping centres only, ignoring the interior parts where gangs were wreaking havoc.

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