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Police seek arrest of suspect behind church grenade attack
Sunday, May 06, 2012
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The Kenyan police have launched a major manhunt for an Al-Shabaab fighter who recently hurled a grenade on worshippers at a church in Nairobi, killing at least two people and injuring 15 others.
Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere also appealed to Kenyans to assist the police with the information that may lead to the arrest of a man, alias Amar, whom the police said returned to Kenya early this year from Kismayu in southern Somalia where he has been operating with other members of the al Qaida allied terror group.
Iteere also released the photograph of Amar which he said was taken in a beach in Kismayu a few months ago before he returned to Kenya to carry out the attack on God’s House of Miracles International Church in Nairobi on April 29 which Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility.
"We have reason to believe that the assailant was the person whose photograph appears here known as alias Amar.
"The photograph was taken in a beach in Kismayu a few months ago and we have learned that he returned to Kenya together with others early this year," Iteere told journalists in Nairobi on Friday.
He requested any person who may have information on their whereabouts to pass the same to the nearest police station for possible arrest.
"It is important to note that he is dangerous and believed to be armed with a pistol and may be in possession of explosives," the police chief warned.
Iteere said the assailant, a young slim man, had gone to the God’s House of Miracles International Church pretending to be a worshiper but walked out on noticing that the service had not started.
He said the church worshippers noted that this was a new member who had not been to the church before.
"The service started at around 08.30hrs but 20 minutes later the stranger entered the church and sat among the congregation," he said.
According to Iteere, the pastor invited the worshippers to the pulpit for prayers and this is the time Amar threw a grenade at them.
"The grenade exploded and injured 15 people, two of whom have since died," the police chief said.
After throwing the grenade, he said, the assailant immediately rushed out and started running away with some of the worshippers who had witnessed the act in hot pursuit.
"When he realized that he was about to be cornered, he wiped out a pistol and started shooting and this accorded him the opportunity to escape," Iteere said.
He said one of the Al-Shabaab leaders, Sheikh Ismael Ali, while addressing some members of the group within Kismayu on May 1 claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed to dispatch more suicide bombers to Kenya.
"I therefore call upon all Kenyans to be vigilant and to be aware of their neighbours and surroundings.
"We should not drop our guard and should continue with the screening exercise at all public places including those of worship," Iteere said.
He said the police will continue with surveillance and intelligence collection to protect Kenyans who have been living in fear of imminent terrorism attack.
The April 29 attack comes barely a week after the U.S. embassy warned of an imminent terrorist attack in Kenya is possible.
A warning from the embassy said the likely targets include Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings including places foreigners assemble, including shopping malls and night clubs.
"The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Kenya that the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has received credible information regarding a possible attack on Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings," the embassy said in a statement on April on 23.
The warning comes as the country’s security forces have been on high alert across the country especially in northern Kenya over an imminent suicide bombing attack by members of the Al-Shabaab group from neighbouring Somalia.
The police chief also admitted that some suspected Al-Shabaab members from Somalia have entered the country but noted that the authorities have stepped up security measures across the country.
Local media reports reported on Friday that nine aliens are suspected to have entered the east African nation from Burgavo and other small towns in Somalia’s Lower Juba region, and who have been forced out by Kenya’s military offensive in the these parts, and the disintegration of Al-Shabaab.
The latest Nairobi attack came almost a month after two people were killed and over 35 others injured in the explosions in the city of Mombasa, which disrupted activities in the coastal town.
In the first incident that happened on March 31, the terrorists hurled explosives at a Christian prayer meeting taking place at a bus terminus in Mombasa.
The second grenade attack happened at about 15 minutes later and targeted revellers at a popular restaurant.
The two attacks come barely three weeks after Al-Shabaab sympathizers attacked travellers at a busy bus terminus in the capital Nairobi.
Six people died and over 60 others were injured in the evening blast.
Kenya’s government blamed the attack on Al-Shabaab and its operatives.
The attack was the fourth since Kenya’s Defence Forces (KDF) crossed into Somalia in October last year to flush out Al-Shabaab militants, who it blamed for abducting tourists and threatening her economy.
More than 30 people have been killed in Kenya mostly in northern region blamed on Al-Shabaab who have since joined al Qaida network to cause terror attacks in East African nation.
The deaths have been recorded after Kenya sent its troops into Somalia in October 2011 to hunt down the insurgents who were blamed for a series of murders and kidnapping on the Kenya soil.
The Kenyan police have particularly warned against the laxity in the screening of cars for explosives at all shopping malls and any business or social gatherings with at least 10 people at any given moment that these might be vulnerable to attacks.
Kenya sent troops into Somalia to battle Al-Shabaab rebels in October 2011 after several attacks, including the kidnapping of a French woman and a British tourist – and the killing of her husband – damaged its key tourism industry.
Kenya’s government says armed attacks and kidnappings threaten the country’s tourism industry—a key driver of the economy—that had bounced back after near collapse following postelection violence four years ago in which more than 1,200 people died.
Al-Shabaab militants have vowed to attack Nairobi after the east African nation which hosted protracted negotiations that culminated in the signing of the federal charter for Somalia in 2005, invaded Somalia to flush out the insurgents it blamed for kidnappings of tourists.
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