Kenya frees grenade blast suspects

2012-03-13 07:55

Nairobi - Kenyan police on Monday released four people, including three minors, arrested over weekend grenade attacks that killed six in the capital Nairobi, the suspects' lawyer said.

The four had been held for questioning over the blasts on Saturday that also wounded more than 60 people. Somalia's hardline Shabaab denied involvement in the attack which Kenyan authorities accused them of staging.

"Police have indicated to them why they were being held and why they are being investigated," said lawyer Chacha Mwita.

The four were interrogated by special police units, including anti-terrorism officers. They were ordered to report to the anti-terrorism police on Tuesday, Mwita said.

The only adult suspect, Sylvester Opiyo, had been on a police wanted list, suspected of having links to Shebab and Kenyan affiliates.

"We are not actually involved in such low-scale attacks. Al-Shabaab has nothing to do with the hand grenade attacks that hit Nairobi," Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim, a senior Shabaab official, said late on Monday.

Al-Shabaab has threatened Kenya since it sent troops into Somalia in mid-October to dislodge the Islamic insurgents who control swathes of the south, and whom Nairobi blames for a series of kidnappings and attacks on its soil.

The Shabaab official renewed threats to attack the Kenyan capital.

"There will be a day we will hit their cities if they continue with their aggression," Ibrahim told AFP.

Al-Qaeda car bombing

Mwita earlier said he had been denied access to the suspects.

"I was not allowed access to them. I later learnt that they had been taken to Kilimani police station where they spent the night," he said.

Mwita said police had questioned the suspects on their whereabouts on the day of the attack. They are yet to be charged in court.

Saturday's attack was the deadliest in Nairobi since one in June 2010, not attributed to Islamists, during a public meeting against the adoption of a new constitution in which six people died.

Neither attack came close to the devastating al-Qaeda car bombing of the US embassy in August 1998 that killed 213 people and injured 5 000.

Forty-two people wounded in Saturday's attacks were still being treated in hospital on Monday, police said.

In Somalia, regional armies are pushing against Shabaab positions, with Kenyan forces in the far south, Ethiopian soldiers in the west and African Union forces in Mogadishu made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.

In retaliation, the Shabaab have carried out grenade attacks and abductions in areas near the porous Kenya-Somalia border, killing and wounding several people.

Ruthless and resilient militia

Last October, less than two weeks after the Kenyan army sent troops and tanks into Somalia, two grenade attacks in the space of less than 24 hours killed one person and wounded 30.

Kenya's army chief General Julius Karangi said on Monday that 4 660 soldiers will join the African Union force in Somalia after the UN Security Council increased the mission's strength to 17 731 from the currently authorised maximum of 12 000.

"Our mandate in Somalia is peace enforcement. So the posture that we adopted when we crossed into Somalia last year remains the same," Karangi told a parliamentary panel on defence.

The International Crisis Group said in a November report that Nairobi should cool its high hopes of defeating the Shabaab, a ruthless and resilient militia fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government in lawless Somalia.