* Attack comes week into Kenya's operation against Somalia rebels
* Grenade similar to one used in bus station attack last year
* Somali, Kenyan troops take another town from rebels
* Somalia disappointed with Kenyan intervention, president says (Adds French
statement, seizure of Somali town)
By Yara Bayoumy and Njuwa Maina
NAIROBI, Oct 24 (Reuters) - A grenade exploded in a Nairobi bar on Monday
wounding 13 people, two days after Kenya's U.S. embassy warned of an
imminent attack there as the east African nation fights Islamist militants
in neighbouring Somalia.
Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said there was no firm evidence yet
to link the attack to Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels and senior
officials from the group declined to comment.
Al Shabaab had threatened major reprisals if Kenyan troops did not leave the
anarchic Horn of Africa nation and have launched large-scale attacks in the
past in Somalia and Uganda, for which they have quickly claimed
Nairobi blames al Shabaab for a wave of kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan
soil that have threatened the country's multi-million dollar tourism
industry. The group has denied responsibility for the kidnappings, saying
Nairobi is using them as a pretext for its military campaign.
Kenyan troops have advanced on several fronts in southern Somalia over the
past week and are nearing the strategic transit town of Afmadow, where
rebels have regrouped and reinforced their defences.
Somali government officials and residents said Kenyan and Somali troops
seized the town of Busaar about 40 km (25 miles) from border town El Wak on
Monday. They said the rebels fled after a brief exchange of fire.
"We have peacefully seized Busaar town from al Shabaab and we are going to
advance deeper into Gedo region. Kenyan troops are helping us," Colonel
Mohamud Ali, a senior Somali government official, told Reuters by phone from
France also denied on Monday reports that its navy had been involved in any
bombardment on Saturday of the Somali town of Kuday, near the port city and
al Shabaab stronghold of Kismayu. It said there were no French warships in
BLOOD AND BEER BOTTLES
The attack on the bar in Kenya's capital Nairobi came two days after the
U.S. embassy warned of an imminent threat of reprisal attacks on places
where foreigners are known to congregate, such as shopping malls and night
The bar, however, was small, run down and in an area where foreigners and
well-off Kenyans rarely go drinking.
Witnesses said a man knocked on the door of Mwaura's bar early on Monday
morning, hurled in the grenade and ran away.
"I heard an explosion, there was darkness and I thought the electicity had
gone out but when I touched my face, there was blood," Lawrence Kioko told
"The person who lobbed the grenade was not seen by anyone," Iteere told a
media conference, adding that the device was Russian made and similar to one
that killed two people in a bus station attack in Nairobi in December.
Reuters footage showed blood and beer bottles splattered on the ground of
Mwaura's bar, which is frequented by labourers attracted by its cheap beer
Blood stained a sink and overturned seats and debris littered the floor.
Police cordoned off the area as an officer examined damage on the walls from
the force of the explosion.
"There was a lot of blood, injuries, people were screaming, others confused,
generally it was chaotic. It was a chaotic situation," bar owner Charles
Mwaura told Reuters.
Simon Githai, communications manager at Kenyatta National Hospital, said 13
patients were brought in, nine had been discharged and two more were likely
to be sent home soon.
"We are seeing ourselves admitting only two patients," he told Reuters.
Iteere said the police force had taken steps to boost security around
potential targets within Kenya.
"We have heightened physical security on most of our vital installations,
buildings, other social places like shopping malls, bridges, our fuel and
petrol storage tanks," he said. "The police are not that many but our
presence must be seen."
He also said police had found a number of AK-47 rifles in a weekend sweep of
the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, home to more than 400,000 Somalis
who have fled violence and famine at home.
SOMALI GOVT NOT PLEASED
Kenya is the latest of Somalia's neighbours to intervene militarily in a
country that has not had an effective government for the last 20 years and
where al Shabaab's presence has had serious security repercussions on the
Kenya has in the past initiated brief cross-border incursions but the latest
operation is on a much larger scale, raising fears the country may be
dragged into its neighbour's two-decade civil war.
While Somali government officials had said the two countries were
cooperating in the fight against al Shabaab, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed
was more circumspect about the Kenya incursion on Monday.
"The Somali government and its people will not be pleased with Kenya's
intervention," Sharif told reporters while visiting the front-line in
Mogadishu. "We had not agreed with Kenya beyond helping us with logistics."
The Islamist militants have proven capable of launching large-scale suicide
attacks within Somalia and outside and have warned they would bring the
"flames of war" into Kenya.
This month, a suicide truck bombing claimed by the rebels killed more than
70 people when it exploded outside a compound housing government ministries
in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.
The militants also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in the Ugandan
capital, Kampala, which killed 79 people watching the soccer World Cup final
That strike, the militants' first on foreign soil, was in revenge for
Uganda's contribution to the 9,000-strong AU peacekeeping force which is
supporting Somalia's Western-backed government troops in removing the rebels
Nairobi is home to a large Somali community and last week security forces
arrested and charged two doctors with being al Shabaab members. The
militants said three of their clerics had been arrested in Kenya, one of
whom is on a U.N. sanctions list, for recruiting new members and soliciting.
Al Qaeda struck east Africa in 1998, killing hundreds of people, mostly
Africans, in suicide bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
(Additional reporting by Noor Khamis and Fouad Khoeis in Nairobi, Abdirahman
Hussein, Abdi Sheikh and Sahra Abdi in Mogadishu; Editing by David Clarke
and Louise Ireland)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Mon Oct 24 2011 - 10:28:24 EDT