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A blast ripped through shops in central Nairobi Monday, wounding dozens in what the prime minister called a “terrorist” attack despite initial police reports of an accidental cause.
Speaking at the charred and wrecked small shopping complex in Nairobi's commercial heart, Raila Odinga contradicted the country's police chief, who had earlier said the explosion was caused by an electrical fault.
“This is terrorism... this is a heinous act, we are under threat but we will not be cowed,” Odinga said.
“The lives and property of Kenyans are precious and must be protected, we condemn the terrorists and tell them that their days are numbered.”
At least 33 people were wounded and five were in a critical condition, police chief Mathew Iteere said.
“Initial investigations show that 33 people were injured and are now admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital and the Aga Khan. Five are reported to be in a serious condition,” he told journalists.
Kenya has been hit by a wave of grenade attacks the police have repeatedly blamed on Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents or its supporters.
Last month the hardline Shebab warned Kenya of revenge attacks for sending tanks and troops into Somalia in October.
The blast ripped the tin roof off a complex of small stores on Nairobi's Moi Avenue, and windows were smashed across the street.
Minutes after the early afternoon blast the pro-Shebab Twitter site Al-Kataib reported a “huge explosion in Nairobi” although it did not specifically claim any responsibility.
“Kenya under attack? Of course the kuffar (unbelievers) has attacked Somalia!” read another Twitter message from the Kenyan-based Muslim Youth Centre, a group linked to the Shebab according to United Nations reports.
The wounded were carried from the explosion, many with cuts from broken glass or flying debris.
“I can't explain what I saw, it was just terrible, I saw a woman who was burning and people were trying to get her to hospital, she was bleeding profusely from the head and her lower part of the body,” said witness George Mwangi.
Police Commissioner Iteere had earlier said the explosion was not a grenade or bomb attack, and that “preliminary conclusions” suggested it was an electrical fault.
However state electricity company Kenya Power later said its investigators had found all fuses were intact.
“It is therefore not possible that the explosion was caused by an electricity fault,” the company said in a statement.
The Kenyan Red Cross set up an emergency medical centre on the street close to the blast site.
“I was just passing by and heard a loud explosion... as I ran towards the other side I was hit by broken glass,” said George Maina, as he was treated by first aid workers on the street.
The pavement nearby was spattered with blood as people were loaded into an ambulance.
“I saw three women being pulled out in a bad shape - two of them were badly burnt,” said Jacob Mulwa, who runs a nearby shop.
A large plume of black smoke rose high into the air as ambulances rushed the wounded to hospital, but fire fighting trucks with sirens blaring extinguished the blaze soon after.
“I addressed parliament and warned of such acts... we chased them from here now they are trying to come back,” Odinga added.
“We'll remain united. Our security forces need to be strengthened,” he added.
Kenya has suffered a series of attacks in the past several months. Two separate grenade attacks on Saturday wounded at least eight people in northeastern Kenya, the restive region bordering war-torn Somalia.
Earlier this month attackers launched a deadly grenade assault on a restaurant in the port city of Mombasa. - Sapa-AFP