The terminal of Kampala Coaches in Nairobi was last night a bloodied scene of tears and ambulance sirens after an explosive ripped through passengers, killing one and injuring 30 others.
In Kampala, Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura said he got confirmation from his Kenyan counterparts that the explosive which went off, shattering the Kampala-bound bus was carried out by a “Somali national”.
“We are still monitoring [the situation] but what is clear is that this person either wanted to harm the passengers, targeting Ugandans in this case, or the grenade went off accidentally,” Maj. Gen. Kayihura told this newspaper by phone at 10:24pm.
Earlier, Kenyan Police and Red Cross officials said three of those critically injured are men while one is a woman.
Moments after the blast, the Kampala Coaches country manager in Uganda, Mr Bashir Sebbi, said two of the casualties are their staff; Ibrahim Ismail and another only identified as Lumansi.
He said a group of passengers, reported to number between three and six, tried to gain forceful entry into the bus without undergoing mandatory security check.
A female passenger, he said, carried the suspicious carton which when dropped exploded.
Kenya Police boss Antony Kibuchi and bus company manager, Mr Jamal Hamed Mohammed, said the blast occurred at around 7.40pm as passengers queued to board the bus in the River Road area.
“A struggle ensued between our security staff and three men which resulted in the box they were carrying to drop down which was followed by a loud explosion,” Mr Mohammed said.
The dead man is reported to be among the group that tried to force its way on to the bus.
Last night’s explosion came hours after IGP Kayihura warned that they had received credible intelligence that Somali militants, al Shabaab, and their Al Qeada backers, were determined to attack Uganda this festive season.
He told a meeting of senior police commanders in Kampala to close places of public gatherings that lack adequate security arrangements because the Force is obliged to protect life and property.
“Terror threats from Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and ADF are the main threats as we go for the festive season and there are strong indications they want to attack,” he said.
Kayihura said the Nairobi attack is believed to be the work of terrorists.
In July this year, at least 76 people were killed in double bomb attacks in Kampala that al Shabaab later claimed it planted to avenge ongoing Ugandan military’s operations in Mogadishu.
Kenya’s last date with terrorism was in 1998 when Al Qeada attacked the American embassy there, killing hundreds.
Last week, Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima put the army on high alert over security fears.