NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan police seized more than 150 detonators in Nairobi on Friday, highlighting the security risks the east African country faces ahead of an election next year because of its struggle with al Qaeda-linked militants in neighbouring Somalia.
Home to a large Somali population, Kenya has been hit by a wave of grenade attacks after its troops crossed into Somalia last year to crush al Shabaab Islamists it blamed for kidnappings and bomb attacks on its own soil.
Kenya’s second-biggest city Mombasa was also convulsed by violent protests late last month after the killing of a Muslim cleric accused by Washington of helping al Shabaab in Somalia.
“I can confirm the detonators were seized at one estate. They are dangerous explosives,” Moses Ombatti, a deputy regional police official in Nairobi, told Reuters on Friday.
The house where the detonators were seized was in the Githurai neighbourhood, a suburb just outside the business district.
The assassination of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo and the ensuing violence – in which churches were torched and two grenades were thrown at police vehicles – has raised fears that more violence may follow ahead of a presidential election in March 2013.
There are also fears that the unrest could become sectarian in Mombasa, a tourist hub and a major Indian Ocean port, where grenade attacks blamed on Somali militants and their sympathisers have already strained Muslim-Christian relations.
Muslims predominate in many Mombasa neighbourhoods.
Rebels promised to carry out revenge attacks in east Africa’s largest economy after Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia last October to fight al Shabaab. Since then, there have been several attacks on churches and bars in Kenya.
Kenya’s December 2007 election was marred by violence that killed more than 1,200 people and nearly tore the country apart after a dispute over the results. (Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Andrew Osborn)