NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 29 – One person was killed and fifteen others wounded after a grenade was hurled inside a church in Nairobi’s Ngara area on Sunday morning.
Police said the incident occurred at about 9 am shortly after the Sunday service kicked off at the God’s House of Miracles International Church.
Witnesses interviewed told Capital FM News they heard a loud blast before they saw smoke billowing out of the church that is located near Ngara Girls High School.
“I was in my kiosk then I heard a loud blast and smoke coming out of the church. I rushed there immediately and found people screaming for help,” Samuel Kimani who runs a kiosk near the church said.
He said his children attend a church service there but they had not arrived at the time of the attack.
“What came in my mind immediately is my children because they go to church there, but when I arrived there I didn’t find them but there were other people who had been injured and we started helping them out,” he said.
Those wounded are people who had gone for the first service that starts at 7 am and runs up to 9 am.
Worshippers interviewed said they saw a man walk in and sat in their midst.
“He clearly appeared a stranger to me and most of us because the people who attend the morning service are known to each other, but we had no reason to suspect him,” one worshipper who identified himself as Kim said.
Moments later, he said, the man walked out and came back that is when he threw the grenade and ran out.
Some of the people who attempted to pursue him said he whipped out a pistol and pointed it at them.
“He ran very first and kept brandishing a pistol to scare away people, no one could go closer to him,” Elijah Mwangi, who was part of the people who chased the attacker said.
Those injured were admitted to the Guru Nanak and Kenyatta National Hospitals, some with critical injuries.
Nairobi Deputy Police chief Moses Nyakwama said they were working closely with crucial witnesses and church members to get the proper description of the attacker.
“We are confident he will be found, the public is assisting us,” Nyakwama told journalists at the scene.
He did not immediately link the attack to the notorious Al Shabaab terror group but said “we cannot rule out anything.”
No suspect had been arrested by Sunday afternoon but detectives involved in the investigation revealed there were crucial leads they were pursuing but they did not give details.
Some of the officers told Capital FM News they will also investigate if the attack was linked to a land dispute.
The incident comes a week after the American Embassy in Nairobi warned of an impending terrorist attack in the capital city.
The Embassy had warned of an attack on government buildings and hotels, warning its nationals to be extra vigilant.
Nairobi has been hit by a series of unclaimed attacks since late 2011. The deadliest blast, on March 10, struck a bus terminal, killing nine people and injuring roughly 60 others.
Kenyan police have blamed the strikes on Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab Islamists or their sympathisers, claiming the attacks are a response to the Kenyan army’s incursion into Somalia, launched in October.
Nairobi sent troops into neighbouring Somalia following a spate of kidnappings in Kenya, which it blamed on the Islamists.
The operation aimed to curb the Al Shabaab influence in Somalia, where they control much of the south and central region in a country that has lacked a stable government for two decades.