A boy who had just turned nine was killed on Sunday after an explosive was hurled at a Sunday School class in a Nairobi church.
John Ian Maina suffered fatal injuries in the explosion that rocked the Anglican Church of Kenya St Polycarp Parish on Juja Road in Pangani area.
He was among a group of children waiting for a Sunday School session when attackers struck, throwing an improvised explosive outside their classroom before escaping on foot.
Police had just warned the previous day that Al-Shabaab was planning retaliatory attacks in the country following the capture of Kismayu port by the Kenya Defence Forces in southern Somalia.
Police said the attackers threw the improvised explosive device and escaped through a footpath next to the church compound in the 10.30am incident.
Bloodstained children’s jackets and shoes lay scattered on the floor of the church, surrounded by remnants of iron sheets broken and twisted by the force of the explosion.
Maina’s mother, Jane Siavinya, was overcome with emotion at the Radiant Hospital on Juja Road where her son had been pronounced dead on arrival.
“The government must bring these culprits to book, I cannot fathom why they targeted the little ones,” she said.
Her husband, Mr Patrick Maina, who is in a wheelchair recovering from a stroke, had been in the main hall for the sermon shortly before the explosion interrupted the church service. Mr Maina was yet to come to terms with the tragedy and sat pensively beside his wife.
An usher at the church, Mr Paul Muigai, said: “At around 10.25am I was preparing the children for a class and we were waiting for the their teacher, Mr Sammy Gichira. They were just about to start the class when the explosion occurred.”
Three children were rushed to Guru Nanak Hospital and four others to Radiant Hospital and later transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital.
By Sunday evening, five of them had been discharged.
Mr James Mwangi, who was in church, said the explosive went off at around 10.30am but did not see the attacker. “We heard the explosion followed by screams,” said Mr Mwangi.
Former Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, who visited the scene, asked the government to beef up security in the area. He said he was aware of wrangles that had bedevilled the church and the community over the ownership of the land on which it is built.
Sunday’s attack is among several that have targeted churches in different parts of the country since KDF crossed into Somalia following a spate of kidnappings suspected to have been masterminded by Al-Shabaab.
Tension was high in Pangani after the attack as crowds engaged police in running battles. Some rowdy youths started stoning a five-storey residential building near Alamin mosque. The building is situated a few metres from St Polycarp Church.
Quick action by the police thwarted an attempt to set up a highrise flat adjacent to the church on fire. Nairobi police boss Moses Ombati appealed for calm and urged the residents to restrain from retaliatory attacks.
Bomb experts from the military and the police arrived later and started sifting the debris for evidence as regular, Adminstration Police and General Service Unit personnel ringed the area.
Four TV camera crew arrested at the scene were later released. The men produced identification cards showing they were working for Horn Cable TV.
Meanwhile, Cabinet minister Mohamed Elmi, MPs Aden Duale, Mohamed Hussein, Sophia Abdi, Adan Keynan, Amina Abdalla, Wajir aspirants Ali Mohamud and Adan Omar on Sunday cautioned against turning the terror attacks into religious war.
Addressing journalists at Arabian Cuisine Hotel in Nairobi, the leaders called for unity among all Kenyans irrespective of religion.
Additional reporting by Lucas Barasa