MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya promised on Sunday to hunt down Somalia-based al Shabaab rebels following two blasts which killed one person and injured 31 in the coastal city of Mombasa, but stopped short of blaming the Islamist militant group outright.
Al Shabaab has staged attacks in Kenya since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia last October to pursue the group. However, Saturday’s blasts were the first to target Mombasa, one of Kenya’s top tourist destinations, and were staged just before the busy Easter tourist season in the coming week.
“We will not tire of hunting for these people (al Shabaab) until we finish them. They have ruined their country and now they have come here to ruin Kenya’s economy,” Internal Security Minister George Saitoti told reporters while visiting the scenes of the explosions.
Regional police commander Aggrey Adoli said al Shabaab was one line of inquiry, but not the only one. “Investigations are going on. Al Shabaab is among those being investigated,” Adoli told Reuters.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who accompanied Saitoti, tried to reassure foreign visitors after the explosions whose victims were all Kenyans. “Kenya is safe. No one should threaten tourists. They should continue coming to Kenya and the government will protect them,” he said.
A senior regional administration official told Reuters that makeshift bombs were used in the near-simultaneous attacks at an open air Christian meeting and a packed bar.
“These were what are known as Improvised Explosive Devices but investigations are still going on to establish exactly what type of IEDs,” said Ernest Munyi, provincial commissioner for the coastal region.
Al Shabaab issued a statement that also fell short of claiming responsibility for the attacks, saying that Kenya’s security depended on its military activities in Somalia.
“The more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Muslims of Somalia, the less secure Kenyan cities will be; and the more oppression the Muslims of Somalia feel, the more constricted Kenyan life will be,” it said.
Saitoti vowed that Kenya would chase members of al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-aligned group which controls large parts of Somalia, wherever they may hide to protect its people and economy.
The Kenyan military moved into south Somalia after two separate attacks on tourists in resorts on its northern coast.
Saturday’s attacks created fears that the tourism business, one of the nation’s big three hard currency earners, could be hit by cancellations during the Easter season.
Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by David Stamp