An explosion ripped through a building full of small shops in downtown Nairobi, injuring at least 33 people, including a woman who blamed the blast on a “bearded man” who left behind a bag shortly before the detonation.
Police officials first indicated that Monday’s explosion could have been caused by some sort of electrical malfunction, but the prime minister said it was deliberate. Al-Shabaab — an Islamist militant group from Somalia — has threatened to carry out such an attack.
“This is a heinous act,” Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said while visiting the scene of the blast. “They want to scare us. But we will not be scared.”
The explosion sent dark smoke billowing out of a one-story building on Moi Avenue, named after Kenya’s second president. The blast peeled back the front corner of the building’s aluminum roof, shattered windows in the building and scattered shoes, clothes and other wares on the ground. A high-rise building with a glass exterior next door was largely untouched.
Speaking from a Nairobi hospital bed, Irene Wachira said a bearded man came to a nearby stall three times and acted as if he were interested in buying something. Wachira said the third time he came with a bag that he left behind. The blast occurred shortly afterward, she said.
Wachira, a vendor in the building, described the man as “Arabic-looking” because of his relatively light skin. A doctor said that another person wounded in the blast said a Somali-looking man left behind the bag. The doctor said he could not be quoted by name.
Police officials who first responded hesitated to blame terrorism, given the lack of shrapnel. The police said at least 33 people were wounded in the explosion.