Man arrested over grenade attack

Anti-terror police (left) and Mombasa residents look at blood stains on the road outside Bella Vista Club on Moi Avenue, where three grenades were exploded on Tuesday night. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU

Police are holding a man suspected to have taken part in the grenade attack on a Mombasa nightclub which killed one person and injured five others.

Mr Thabit Jamaldin Yahya, 30, is under guard at Coast General hospital where he is being treated for injuries sustained in the attack.

“The person is the prime suspect since the injuries inflicted on him are intense, which must have been from the blast,” said Coast Provincial CID boss Ambrose Munyasia.

He added: “We shall question him once he recovers from the injuries to shed more light on what happened.”

Kenya has been hit by a series of grenade and IED attacks targeting civilians and security forces since the army rolled across the Somalia border in October last year to fight the Al-Shabaab militia group. About 20 people have been killed in the attacks and scores wounded.

Mr Yahya, who told reporters, he lives in Nairobi’s Kibera estate, is handcuffed on his sick bed under the watch of detectives from Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.

Mr Gregory Obiero, a security guard at Bella Vista nightclub, said he was at the entrance with two colleagues when three men tried to force their way in.

When they were barred, they opened fire at cars in the parking yard and threw three grenades into the club, Mr Obiero said at the Coast General Hospital where he is also being treated.

He identified his colleagues as Boniface Wambugu and Mary Chepkwony, who died as she was being taken to hospital.

Police said they had found a bus ticket showing the suspect was travelling to Nairobi Tuesday night, shortly after the blast.

“He was to depart for Nairobi at 10pm, just a few minutes after the incident. We are connecting him with the incident,” said a police officer close to the investigation.

In Nairobi, police commissioner Mathew Iteere said: ‘‘When our officers went to the bus station they found his luggage which had a magazine loaded with eight rounds of ammunition.”

“We also got a laptop from him, which we are analysing,” he added.

But Mr Yahya pleaded his innocence in an interview with The Nation saying he did not know why he was arrested.

“I was walking towards Mwembe Tayari when I heard the first blast on my left side. Then a second one in quick succession which hit me. It happened so fast, in a flash of a second, and I suddenly found myself on the ground,” he said. He went on: “A few metres from me, a soldier and a watchman were also injured by the grenade.”

He said he was put in a Tuktuk taxi by good Samaritans and taken to Coast General Hospital where police arrested him.

He said: “I do come to Mombasa from my home in Kibera, Nairobi, quite often to visit friends. This time I had visited a friend, Mr Kassim. In fact I come so often that the staff of the bus which I regularly use and the hotel where I usually board know me quite well and I have absolutely no problem with them.”

Mr Yahya said he is married with a three-year -old child and that he lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years before returning to Kenya four years ago. “I worked in Red Sea Palace Hotel, Holiday Inn Hotel and Nuovo Hotel, all in the city of Jedda. I worked as a waiter,” he said.

Three people, including Mr Yahya, were admitted to the hospital. A senior medical officer said Mr Nathaniel Murugi had been taken to the theatre for surgery.
Mr Obiero said he suffered shoulder and right leg injuries.

“I was talking to my two colleagues, Boniface Wambugu and Mary Chepkwony, when we saw a metallic object rolling on the ground emitting smoke. In a split second, a huge explosion rocked the club followed by two more blasts, which shook the building,” he said, adding that revellers and workers scampered in different directions.

On Wednesday, leaders from the Coast condemned rising insecurity in the region and urged the police to be more vigilant.

In a related development, police on Wednesday said they were holding a man who resembles a German they had linked to terrorism. Mr Iteere said police would establish if the man, arrested in Naivasha, was Ahmed Khaled Mueller, a member of Al-Shabaab.

An attendant at the Shell Petrol Station near the club, Mr Isack Aduda, said he was refuelling a vehicle when he heard the blasts.

Mr Munyasia, the CID boss, said material evidence collected at the scene showed that the attackers used hand grenades.

Police, he said, recovered a pistol with nine rounds of ammunition a few metres from the club.

Coast Provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli said security will be stepped up.

About two months ago, suspected terrorists hit a restaurant in Tononoka and a Christian prayer meeting in Mtwapa in similar attacks. Two people were killed and 33 injured.

Police have not made any arrests in connection with these attacks.

On Wednesday, leaders from the Coast condemned rising insecurity in the region and urged the police to be more vigilant.

The insecurity will greatly hurt the tourism sector which is the backbone of the region’s economy, they said.

Assistant minister Ramadhan Kajembe (Environment) and his Transport counterpart Ali Hassan Joho said the attacks would drive away visitors to the region and ruin its economy.

Others who condemned the attacks were Likoni MP Mr Masoud Mwahima and Malindi MP Gideon Mung’aro who urged the police to arrest the suspects.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said they were trying to establish if the man was indeed the one whose details they had circulated through the press. The suspect was arrested in Naivasha.

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