By CYRUS OMBATI
At least 16 people were Sunday killed and scores injured in twin grenade and gun attacks at the Garissa Catholic Church and AIC churches.
Police say the attacks occurred simultaneously on Sunday morning as the congregations were in prayers and no arrests have been made so far. Witnesses said the attackers were wearing balaclavas. Among the dead are two police officers who also lost two guns to the attackers in the attack at the local Africa Inland Church.
The officers usually man the churches in the wake of increased terror related attacks. They also screen and search those who get into the churches for explosives and weapons.
The blast that occurred at the Catholic Church is believed to have also injured the man who threw it. Two grenades were thrown at the congregation at the Catholic Church but one exploded.
At the AIC church, the attackers used two rifles they allegedly grabbed from the two officers to shoot at the congregation.
North Eastern Provincial Commissioner James ole Serien said the gang later escaped with the rifles after the killing spree.
“They went into the middle of the congregation and opened fire randomly. This is not acceptable,” he said. He added another grenade was thrown at a local market but did not record injuries.
“It seems to have been a well co-ordinated attack but we are pursuing them. They attacked innocent people in churches,” he said on the phone.
Serien said three children were injured inside the Catholic Church. He said the second grenade that was thrown into the church did not explode.
The attackers at the Catholic Church did not get in but threw them from outside because the officers deployed at the entrance had been screening those getting in.
Serien said they have picked up the unexploded one for analysis. He added they are pursuing the attacker who was also injured but managed to escape in the confusion.
“It is shocking because the bodies are lying in the church and so far we have no clue of where the attackers are,” said a senior officer in the area.
There is confusion and panic in the town as police sirens move from point to the other in pursuit of possible leads. All roads were closed as part of the hunt on the attackers but no arrest had been made.
Witnesses said there were bloodstains at both churches. There has been an increase in grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops to Somalia to crush Al-Shabaab militants who have been blamed for increased insecurity in Kenya.
Police say they are pursuing several suspects who are believed to be behind the attacks. The latest occurred in Wajir Town on Friday but none was injured. Another one had injured two police officers in Mandera Town.
In Mishimoroni area, Mombasa, two people were killed a week ago in grenade attacks that also left more than 30 injured. Police are holding a suspect.
A gang kidnapped five aid workers working with the Norwegian Refugee Council on Friday and they are yet to be traced. The attacks are believed to be carried out by remnants of the terror gang who are in the country.
Supkem chairman Abdulghafur Al Busaidy condemned the attack and called on authorities to arrest those behind it. “The attackers do not respect the sanctity of places of worship and those behind it must be brought to book,” he said.