, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 – Two people were killed in a grenade attack on a church in a town in eastern Kenya, residents said Sunday, amid a spate of violence that has raised concerns for the country’s key tourism industry.
The attackers threw a grenade at a house inside a compound of the East African Pentecostal Church in Garissa late Saturday, killing two people living inside, locals said. Up to four others were injured in the attack.
“They attacked people who reside in the church compound,” said a worshipper. “Two people died and the others have been taken to hospital.”
A bomb placed near the gates of a military base in the town failed to explode, another church member said.
“People are not venturing out to pray for the (Muslim feast of) Eid al-Adha as there are too many security personnel moving around,” a local journalist said, adding that security personnel have been searching the town for explosives for the past week.
Garissa is some 330 kilometres (200 miles) northeast of Nairobi and around 70 kilometres from the Dadaab camp for refugees from Somalia’s civil war where a police truck escorting a UN convoy struck a landmine on Saturday. The device did not detonate.
Banditry is commonplace in the region but landmines are rare.
Dadaab, about 80 kilometres from the Somali border, was opened more than 20 years ago but its population has swollen to close to half a million refugees this year because of famine in Somalia.
The spate of attacks, including one on Swiss tourists on Friday, could deal a blow to Kenya’s tourism industry which has only just recovered from the impact of post-election violence in 2008.
Nairobi blames many of the attacks on Somalia’s Islamist Shebab rebels who have promised to retaliate after Nairobi sent troops into south Somalia last month.
Nairobi blames the Shebab for a spate of kidnappings of foreigners from areas of Kenya close to the Somali border. The Shebab deny imvolvement.
In September gunmen seized a couple of British tourists — Judith and David Tebbutt, both in their fifties — who were holidaying north of the idyllic Lamu archipelago.
David Tebbutt was shot dead while his wife was captured. She is believed to have been sold to pirates in central Somalia.
On October 1 gunmen snatched disabled French woman Marie Dedieu from her home on the Lamu archipelago. She later died in captivity, French officials said.
On October 13, two Spanish aid workers were seized by gunmen in broad daylight from the Dadaab refugee camp.
All four kidnappings have been linked to Shebab Islamists. Kenyan police have also blamed the Shebab for two grenade attacks — one on a bar and one at a bus stop — in the capital.