How sad that I must discuss the bomb blast in Nairobi yesterday during the holiday season, and yet I fear this will be the norm in the years to come. Over many years terrorists have established that disruption during the Christian holiday is a signature they prefer.
As terrorist incidents go, this was not devastating as have been some. Directed so obviously to local African holiday makers, the bombing was outside an overnight bus scheduled to leave from Nairobi to Kampala at 8 p.m., Monday night.
Bus security actually saved many lives. Four were killed and 41 were injured, but the bus was packed, with more than 30 people aboard. Security was checking the luggage as is the routine outside the bus, which alarmed one of the last passengers boarding the bus which intentionally (or not, we aren’t sure) resulted in his small carry-on exploding.
That bomber was killed. In the mayhem that followed, his companion traveler left the bus and escaped.
During the day, Monday, Uganda issued a special security alert that warns travelers in the country during Christmas to be on the look-out for Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists. In July Uganda suffered its worst terrorist bombing ever: 79 people were killed in two separate bars as they watched the World Cup.
Uganda has been an avowed special target of Al-Qaeda for some time, as there are more Ugandan soldiers in peace-keeping roles in Mogadishu, Somali, than from any other African country. Al-Shabab (Al-Qaeda in Somali) currently controls about a third of the country and is fighting hard to gain control of Mogadishu.
So it’s unclear whether the two bombers and their packages were intended to explode in Kenya, or were simply transporting weaponry into Uganda when Nairobi security personnel foiled the plot prematurely.
Nairobi’s central bus station is isolated from the city’s tourist hotels. This was clearly not an attack intended against tourists in Kenya.