domingo, 30 de setembro de 2012


By Cyrus Ombati

Terrorists struck at the heart of every parent by planting a homemade bomb in a church’s Sunday school wing, which on exploding killed one child and injured others.

The attack at St Polycarp ACK in Nairobi’s Juja Road Estate left Kenyans wondering why innocent children memorising biblical verses and learning new songs were targets of ghastly attacks that left them in emotional and physical distress.

Nine-year-old Ian John Macharia’s deskat school on Monday will be empty, and teachers will be struggling to explain to his classmates why he will no longer be with them; he was killed by faceless people whose cause he does not know.

Only last Saturday, Macharia celebrated his ninth birthday not knowing it would be his last. His head took the impact of the blast and he succumbed to the gruesome injuries at the nearby Radiant Hospital.

In a cruel twist to the terror attack, Macharia’s father who is ailing is admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital and later in the day the St Polycarps faithful was to raise money to buy him a wheelchair.

Police linked the attacks to Al-Shabaab militia, which is at war with Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia.

The wounds on the young children spoke volumes about the indiscriminate craving for blood by the attackers, and opened the eyes of Kenyans to the fact that no one is safe as long as merchants of terror goaded by religious fundamentalism are still on the prowl.

The nine-year old boy was killed and nine other children injured when a homemade bomb planted by the suspected terrorists blew up the church, which borders Eastleigh.

The church is on Chai Road where the improvised explosive device (IED) went off at about 10.30am.

It later emerged that the terrorists planted the device outside the room where the children have their Sunday class, a fact that police said reduced the casualty level. There were 15 children inside at the time.

Overcome by grief, Macharia’s mother, Jane Siovia wept uncontrollably at the hospital where her son died, and was unable to speak to journalists.

“Why? Why? Why attack the innocent and indefensible?” was all that Ms Siovia asked repeatedly as tears rolled down her cheek at the hospital.

Unknown people
One guard, Gabriel Chacha, said all those who walked into the compound were screened for explosives and harmful objects. He said some unknown people arrived at the gate and walked away without getting in as he prepared to frisk them.
“If they are the same people they are talking about, they came and stopped here briefly before walking away. I can’t remember their faces,” he said in reference to the two people who other witnesses said they saw leave the explosive at the scene.
Jackline Ndung’u said the church was full as there was to be a fundraising for Macharia’s father.
“The child had left to go and get a chair when the explosion hit the Sunday school class,” added Ndung’u.
She continued: “We were to hold a fundraising to buy a wheelchair for Macharia who is paralysed and has been hospitalised for long at Kenyatta.. Unfortunately it is his child who died in the tragedy. This is a sad day for the family,” she added.
Three other children were admitted to KNH after they were injured in the attack, while four of their colleagues were treated and discharged.
Two others were rushed to Pangani Hospital in a bad state, but doctors expressed confidence in their quick recovery and subsequent discharge.
Police confirmed the explosion was an IED planted next to the wall of the Sunday school where children were being taught. Witnesses talked of seeing two men leave the gadget at the scene before it blew up.
Parts of the roof and wall were ripped off by the impact while the nearby church had its iron sheet wall torn apart. The IED left a crater on the spot and the impact shook nearby buildings. 
The Nairobi Area’s head of criminal investigations Mr Nicholas Kamwende and city provincial boss Mr Moses Ombati said the IED could have caused more deaths had it been placed in an enclosed area.
Kamwende who is also the immediate former head of the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit said the explosive was placed outside. “You can see the pellets are many and it seems it was left here by people who were targeting those inside the hall. The impact is huge and it could have caused more deaths,” said Kamwende.
The place where the IED was placed also serves as a path leading to a residential area. The church compound also houses a primary and nursery school.
It also emerged that there was a long-running dispute over the ownership of the plot on which the church sits and it was once demolished.
Just like many other churches, St Polycarp had two guards on duty armed with metal detectors screening those who walked in.
Heard explosion
Another witness Paul Muigai who was an usher said he heard an explosion from the Sunday school side and rushed there only to find children lying down crying. “Their teacher was also in shock and all I did was to carry three children who were injured and had blood stains all over. We rushed them to hospital.”
Kenya has suffered a series of grenade attacks since it sent troops into Somalia last October in pursuit of members of Al Shabaab militants who it blamed for kidnapping security personnel and tourists.
The attack came days after Kenyan troops launched a surprise offensive on the southern Somali port of Kismayu, the last stronghold of the Al Shabaab, forcing the rebels to flee.
Three people arrested at the scene taking photos of the church told police they were working for the Hon Cable TV of Somalia.
Tension gripped the area as enraged youth started attacking the nearby Alamin Mosque. However, police managed to restore calm and dispersed them. The youths also attacked a flat occupied by members of the Somali community, stoning and damaging windows before more police arrived. Another group of youth attacked motorists.
Mr Ombati explained they had agreed with churches they hire guards to screen all those getting in.
Ombati said they had raised their alert at the weekend following the fall of Kismayu in Somalia and had informed all relevant authorities to be vigilant.
He said they suspect followers of Al-Shabaab were behind the attack on the church.

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