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October 25, 2011 / Dan Whipple

Grenades in Nairobi, oh my

We’ve had two grenade attacks in Nairobi in the last two days. The total damages have been one killed and about 25 injured.

In the first one, which was early Monday morning, someone tossed grenade into a nightclub, a place which seems to be more like a local pub than anything else. Thirteen people were reported injured, one seriously.

Then during the day Monday, a grenade was thrown at a matatu at a crowded stop. Matatus are fourteen-seat vans which provide most of Kenya’s mass transit service. They are nearly always crowded. The grenade bounced off the window of the matatu it was tossed at. When it exploded in street, it killed one person and injured 12 others, all of whom were outside running to catch other matatus.

The police have not officially attributed these attacks to al Shabaab. Neither one of them seems especially sophisticated, and it isn’t the first time that a grenade has gone off since we’ve lived here. The last time, maybe six or eight months ago, a grenade exploded in a car in the Eastleigh district, but it was the result of ineptitude, not terrorism.

If al Shabaab is behind these explosions, they seem singularly amateurish. It is also hard to see what they hope to achieve. A few grenade blasts in Nairobi is not going to alter the Kenyan army’s path in Somalia. Nor has the government of Kenya been particularly solicitous of its citizens’ safety in any other venue—witness the carnage of the traffic, or the extra-judicial killings in the streets. And this is the kind of thing that caused them to launch the Somali offensive in the first place. It seems more likely to strengthen resolve than the reverse.

In any case, no one seems particularly terrorized by any of this. The streets are as crowded as usual. There is increased security at most buildings, where the guards now check under every car with a mirror. But it has been pretty much business as usual.



Leave a Comment
  1. kathybogan / Oct 25 2011 2:31 pm

    People are jumpy, however. One of my colleagues said he was returning to Nairobi from Eldoret by air over the weekend, and when one of the passengers — who just happened to look Somali — got up during the flight to open the overhead bin, everyone on the plane turned silently to watch him. Kind of like planes in the US. The guy looked around and sat down.

  2. Dan Neal / Oct 25 2011 3:46 pm

    Hey, pay attention and stay in touch, please.

  3. Randall K. Roberts / Oct 25 2011 8:37 pm

    Be careful, guys.

  4. Mike Weber / Oct 28 2011 5:28 am

    Dan and Kathy, is this still what you want to be doing? I think it sounds exciting, challenging, even brave. And then i wonder about issues like: rewarding, fun, fulfilling? Of course I worry a bit when I hear of grenades going off near anyone I care for. I would worry a lot if you were there and not doing just what you want to be doing. Much love.

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