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Kenya hit by explosions after sending troops into Somalia

October 24, 2011 |  3:55 pm

Police officers in Nairobi, Kenya
REPORTING FROM NAIROBI, KENYA, AND JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, was hit Monday by two blasts apparently aimed at civilians just over a week after government troops were sent into the country's war-torn neighbor, Somalia.

One person was reported dead and more than 20 were injured in the two attacks.

No one immediately claimed responsibility. But a spokesman for Shabab insurgents last week warned that the group would cause violence in Nairobi if Kenyan troops were not withdrawn.

In the first attack, a grenade went off at a bar in downtown Nairobi early Monday and injured about 12, most of whom suffered only scratches and cuts.

Around 8 p.m., a blast hit a crowded bus terminal, killing one and injuring 13 people, the Daily Nation reported.

Police said the second attack may also have involved a grenade, but they have not yet pinned either of the assaults on Shabab.

Two days earlier, the U.S. warned of the possibility of terrorist attacks in Kenya, with crowded places such as bars and shopping malls most vulnerable.

Shabab has carried out several major suicide attacks in the region, killing more than 80 in bars in Uganda last year and about 80 people outside a government compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, recently.

Some analysts have warned that given Somalia's history -- two decades with no functioning central government and numerous failed foreign interventions since the early 1990s -- Kenya could get bogged down in a military quagmire in the country.

Already troops are bogged down in a literal sense: The incursion came after seasonal rains that turned the roads into swamps and saw heavy military vehicles stuck in the mud.

Kenya's military operation is designed to prevent kidnappings of foreigners by pirates and extremists -- highly damaging to the country's tourist industry -- and to drive Shabab from its main base, the port city of Kismayo, a smuggling point for weapons and contraband.

Charles Mwaura, owner of the bar attacked Monday, told The Times the establishment had a small clientele.

"This incident really was a great shock to me and my staff. We didn’t expect such a thing to happen at this area of the town, although we are afraid anything might happen now that government has started the war against the terrorists from the Somalia, Al Shabab," he said in an interview at his bar.

Taxi driver, Moses Kamau, said the message from the attackers was clear.

"I think we now know these people are up to a revenge mission and can attack anywhere in our country," he said. "We are vulnerable, and can be attacked any time. So we are in fear, and generally we think the government is not capable of stopping such attacks."

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 -- Nicholas Soi in Nairobi and Robyn Dixon in Johannesburg

Photo: Police officers at the scene of an explosion at a bus station in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday. Credit: Dai Kurokawa / European Pressphoto Agency

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