Nairobi: Ten people were killed and over 70 wounded on Friday in two bomb attacks at a busy market in Nairobi, the latest in a wave of unrest blamed on Kenya’s militants.
The twin bombings came as hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near the port city of Mombasa after Britain’s Foreign Office and other nations issued new travel warnings.
The National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) said the first blast in the capital occurred next to a 14-seater matatu, or public minibus, and the second was inside a shop in Gikomba Market close to Nairobi’s central business district.
A spokesman at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi’s main hospital, said eight bodies had brought in and “more than 70” people admitted for treatment, many of them in a serious condition.
The NDOC then revised the death toll up to 10, while another hospital said it had received around 14 patients.
“Many of the injured are bleeding profusely. We need a lot of blood,” spokesman Simon Ithae told AFP as the hospital issued an appeal for donors.
Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue confirmed that two bombs had been used, and the area was littered with debris including clothing hurled into overhead power and telephone lines.
“Two IEDs were detonated simultaneously,” Kibue told reporters at the scene, trying to reassure an increasingly sceptical public that the security forces are in control.
“Don’t panic. We are on top of things,” he said. Police also said two suspects had been arrested.
The United States condemned the “latest in a series of cowardly attacks on innocent civilians in Kenya” as “despicable.”
“As we have for half a century, the United States stands with our Kenyan friends and partners who continue to face adversity with courage and resolve,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
“We support them in their efforts to confront terrorism in all of its forms.”
Earlier this month, three people were killed and 86 wounded in twin bus blasts in Nairobi that were blamed on militant cells connected with Somalia’s Al-Qaida-linked Al Shabab rebels. The previous day, twin attacks left four dead in Mombasa.
Kenya has been targeted by Al Shabab since sending troops to war-torn Somalia in 2011. Kenyan soldiers are still posted in southern Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting the country’s fragile internationally-backed government.
On Thursday and Friday, hundreds of British tourists were evacuated from beach resorts near Mombasa following new warnings of terror attacks from Britain’s Foreign Office.
Australia, France and the United States also issued similar warnings this week to avoid Mombasa, and in some cases Nairobi.
Thomson and First Choice, which are owned by London-listed TUI Travel, Europe’s biggest tour operator, said they had also decided to cancel all flights to the coastal city until November.
“As a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya back to the UK,” Thomson and First Choice said in a statement.
The evacuation, which continued on Friday, involved nearly 450 holidaymakers, company sources said.
The Kenyan government has expressed “disappointment” and has accused countries that are telling tourists to stay away of “unfriendly acts.”
“Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic,” the government said.
Sam Ikwaye of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, said the evacuations were a “huge blow” to tourism, which directly or indirectly accounts for 14 per cent of Kenya’s economic output and roughly 12 per cent of the workforce.
He said beach hotels in the region were now facing a drop in revenue of up to 70 per cent, and that he feared that “the decision by the British is likely to influence other countries to do the same.”
Last month, Kenya confirmed that the number of foreign visitors to the country — a top safari and beach destination — slumped by 11 per cent in 2013, when the country was gripped by fears of election-related political violence.
The current year is expected to also see a massive drop, particularly in the wake of Al Shabab’s high-profile attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall last September in which at least 67 people were killed.