Al-Shabaab operatives have devised a new way of carrying out terror attacks in Kenya. They are using unsuspecting people to carry explosive devices which they then detonate from a safe distance.
Police issued warnings about the new trend a day after identifying the person who died in an explosion in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on Friday. Six others were injured in the 7 pm incident.
The man was carrying an improvised explosive device that was concealed in what looked like an “ordinary small transistor radio,” according to police.
A stranger who was walking beside the man had asked him to hold the “radio” for him as he pretended to search his pockets.
The stranger, who police say is an Al-Shabaab operative, slowed down, allowing the innocent man to walk ahead of him into a crowd, then pressed a remote control he clenched in his fist, detonating the device.
The man’s upper torso was completely blown off, and he was identified only through an ID card found in his pocket. Six people who were around him suffered varying degrees of injuries.
This attack was a repeat of a similar strategy used barely 48 hours earlier in which three people died and five others were injured in an explosion in a different section of Eastleigh.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Mr Samson Defatha, a mkokoteni (handcart) puller, recalled: “A customer approached me and asked me to ferry a gas cylinder near a mosque situated next to St Teresa’s Catholic Church along Juja Road.”
He charged Sh100.
“I wanted to carry the cylinder on my shoulders, but I decided to use a handcart because the distance was quite long,” he added. “As we trudged along the busy estate, the customer kept his distance as he followed me from behind. Soon I heard a hissing sound before the gas suddenly burst into flames.”
Nairobi police boss Anthony Kibuchi told the Sunday Nation that Mr Defatha was yet another victim of the latest trick by Al-Shabaab. “Initially we thought it was a gas cylinder that had exploded on impact after the handcart was hit by a matatu. Further investigations showed it was an explosive device. It was detonated by remote control,” he said.
The most deadly attack by Al-Shabaab, the explosion at Assanand’s House on Moi Avenue in which one person died and 36 others were injured in May, was carried out in the same way, according to Mr Kibuchi.
The perpetrator handed a bag containing a “fertiliser bomb” to a shop attendant there, then walked out and made a call using a cell phone and thus triggering the explosion.
“In all the alerts we have issued, we have urged Kenyans to be wary of suspicious characters. Accepting luggage from a stranger could be disastrous, and the risk is highest now as we have intelligence that Al-Shabaab commanders have ordered that the attacks be scaled up during the month of Ramadhan,” he said.