NAIROBI, Kenya — A bomb exploded at a downtown bus station in Kenya’s capital late Monday as passengers boarded a bus, killing at least one person and wounding up to 39 others, police said. Suspicions centred on a Somali militant group.
The person who was killed was carrying a piece of luggage that contained the bomb, police commissioner Mathew K. Iteere said. It was not immediately clear if it was a suicide attack, Iteere said.
But most of the wounded were Ugandans travelling home for Christmas, Red Cross official Nelly Muluka said. Al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, has threatened to carry out more attacks on Uganda and Burundi, the two nations that contribute troops to the 8,000-strong African Union force in Mogadishu. Twin bombings in July in Uganda claimed by al-Shabab killed 76.
A security official in Nairobi said Uganda and Burundi have been on high alert since early November that they would be targeted by al-Shabab. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted by his organization to be identified.
Muluka put the toll of wounded at 39. Iteere said one person was killed and 26 wounded.
The explosion took place just as people were boarding a bus line called the Kampala Coach, a bus line that serves major cities in East Africa, including the capital of Uganda — Kampala. Windows in front of the bus were shattered but the bus did not sustain major structural damage.
Iteere said the explosion happened just as the person carrying the luggage was about to be screened. It’s common in Kenya to screen passengers — not for terror attacks, but for weapons that could be used to carry out potential hijackings in rural areas.
Vincent Sekatte, a police spokesman in Uganda, said that threats against his country “have been on for some time.”
“The terrorists have always threatened to hit during Christmas season. Tomorrow we are issuing a serious warning to the public about the threats,” Sekatte said.
Associated Press reporters Godfrey Olukya in Kampala, Uganda and Jason Straziuso and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.