Man arrested over attack at drinking den

Monday June 25 2012

Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU  An injured Mr Athuman Salim, 23, who was arrested after the blast at Jericho Beer Garden in Mishomoroni, Kisauni, Mombasa,  is handcuffed to a bed at the Coast General Hospital on June 25, 2012.

Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU An injured Mr Athuman Salim, 23, who was arrested after the blast at Jericho Beer Garden in Mishomoroni, Kisauni, Mombasa, is handcuffed to a bed at the Coast General Hospital on June 25, 2012. 

By MARK AGUTU [email protected] AND ANTHONY KITIMO [email protected]

Police are holding a man in connection with Sunday’s blast at a night club in Mombasa that killed two people and injured 25 others.

The suspect comes from Kaloleni in Kilifi County and is admitted at the Coast General Hospital with leg and hand injuries.

He was arrested after failing to explain what he was doing around Jericho Beer Garden in Mishomoroni when the blast went off.

“He is being treated as a suspect until investigations prove otherwise,” a senior anti-terrorism officer said.

But the young man, who gave his name as Athuman Salim Gharama, 23, pleaded his innocence, saying he just happened to be outside the night club when the blast occurred.

“The police started interrogating me at the scene and then handcuffed me. I have remained handcuffed here waiting for their return,” said Mr Gharama from his hospital bed.

He added that he was staying in Mishomoroni with friends and relatives.

On Monday, a team comprising anti-terrorism police officers and bomb experts returned to the blast site and scoured the compound and adjacent buildings for pieces of shrapnel and other details to establish the type of explosive used in the attack.

Collected particles

“We cannot, as yet, tell the type of explosive that went off at Jericho Beer Garden. We have collected the particles of the device and we hope to get to the bottom of the matter soon,” said Coast police boss Aggrey Adoli.

However, he said the explosion was not linked to the US advisory to its officers and citizens to leave Mombasa over a terror threat on Saturday.

“We cannot relate the explosion to the alert since it happened at a local bar which is not visited by US citizens.”

He appealed to the residents to be more vigilant and work with the police.

“The police cannot be everywhere all the time. It is the duty of everybody to participate in improving security by giving vital information to the officers,” Mr Adoli said.

The blast came barely a day after the American Embassy warned of an impending terrorist attack in the coastal town.

The government reacted angrily to the advisory, with the Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia terming it as “a betrayal of trust” after the two governments had agreed against issuing further alerts.

The scene of the blast was cordoned off and armed officers kept off curious wananchi. The Coast General Hospital confirmed that two people died from the blast. One was identified by relatives as Maurice Owino Odero.

“One of the victims was admitted at the Intensive Care Unit but he later passed one. The other deceased was brought in from the scene after he had lost his life,” said the hospital’s chief administrator, Dr David Mwangi.

He said seven people were admitted with injuries, among them a nine-year-old boy. Kenya Red Cross officer at the Coast, Ms Mwanaisha Khamis, said 25 people were injured.

The attack came as the government prepared a new anti-terrorism Bill proposing life sentence for terror suspects and seizure of their properties to compensate victims of their violence.

The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2012, replaces the Suppression of Terrorism Bill of 2003 that was withdrawn over claims of violating human rights.

The new law proposes creation of the Compensation of Victims of Terrorism Fund that would be funded by proceeds from the sale of property of terrorists and fines imposed on those convicted.

The Bill has been received with mixed reactions. Some MPs have vowed to reject it in Parliament, while Muslim religious leaders and professionals have backed it with some amendments.

At the same time, Mombasa residents have accused security agencies, especially the National Intelligence Security Services (NSIS), of sleeping on the job.

“As residents of Mombasa, we are disturbed by these attacks which are occurring without any arrests. The police should work around the clock and arrest people suspected to have committed the incident,” said Mr Abdul Abdulla.

Since Kenya sent troops to Somalia last October, a series of explosions have rocked Nairobi, Mombasa and North Eastern region in what is believed to be retaliatory attacks by the Al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile, some American and British tourists on Monday down-played the travel advisory, saying the country was safe.

Mr Kevin Schmidt from California, USA, has been in the country for three weeks and said: “A lot of it is precautionary, they (US government) want to make sure everybody is informed,” he said.

Captain Tim March, a pilot from England, said he had no fears for his family of self.

“I brought my family with me, people have to keep an eye on themselves, they have to be vigilant, as a tourist here I feel safe,” said Mr March.

The sentiments were shared by another tourist, Mr Kevin Frodiske from the United Kingdom, who has been in the country for a week.