(eTN) – According to a phoned-in report, while on the road in Kenya, just after 1:00 pm today, an explosion took place in a building along Moi Avenue in the center of Nairobi, injuring at least 27 people who were, according to the Nairobi-based source, admitted to the Kenyatta National Hospital for emergency treatment, along with several – word has it at least four – who are critically injured. Their current condition is not known, nor was information available from police sources if anyone had been killed in the blast.
The explosion – cause presently unknown – was powerful enough to shake neighboring buildings. Police ordered a mandatory evacuation of nearby buildings and pushed curious onlookers back to a safe distance.
There is widespread speculation in Nairobi, and in Mombasa for that matter, that the latest blast is one in a series of similar incidents since Kenya went into hot pursuit of Islamic terrorists from the Al Shabaab militia, which has abducted and killed foreigners inside Kenya with near impunity before a full-scale invasion of the rebel strongholds in Somalia went underway on the ground, by naval units, and in the air.
Al Shabaab, in such cases, is the first and most plausible culprit organization but at the moment, other causes such as a gas leak cannot be entirely ruled out. The Kenya Police Commissioner did himself and his credibility no favor when he was quoted by local media to have blamed an electrical explosion, asking Kenya Power and Lightning to investigate, while at the same time his anti-terrorism unit already combed the debris for any possible evidence of explosives and for other clues. Hearsay reports, attributed to eye witnesses in the area at the time, speak of a fireball emerging from what seems to have been an apparel shop. Several of those injured are reportedly being treated for burns, too.
The neighboring Mt. Kenya University was also evacuated as a safety measure, until clarity has been achieved on the cause of the blast and the likelihood of further explosions occurring.
Kenya tourism is undergoing the annual low season traffic reduction, and with widespread violence in Zanzibar over the weekend, during which Christian churches were attacked and burned, reported here earlier in the day, it is a matter of reading the tea leaves as to what impact this incident will have on Kenya and East African tourism in the short and medium term.
Statements from the Kenya Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism are expected later on when more facts are at hand, though it should be pointed out that security precautions, as witnessed once again today when returning from safari to Mombasa, are strict and substantial, aimed at keeping any mischief away from resorts and restaurants and other places frequented by tourist visitors or large numbers of people. No tourists have come to harm in the past in any similar incidents in Nairobi and Mombasa, but it is deeply regretted that Kenyans were those once again making up the victims.