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Explosions kills 5, wound 75 at Kenya rally

Two explosions rip through a park in Nairobi's capital during a packed political rally late Sunday, killing five people and wounding 75, officials say.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two explosions ripped through a park in Nairobi's capital during a packed political rally late Sunday, killing five people and wounding 75, officials said.

The rally was held to protest a draft constitution the country will vote on in August. The country's president and prime minister support it, but several prominent political leaders do not.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said officials don't yet know the cause of the blasts, but that they wounded 75 people. Dr. Charles Kabetu of Kenya's national hospital said five people had died.

"I want to say clearly that the government will do everything possible to get to the root of this incident. We must condemn this," Odinga said. "Kenyans can decide peacefully what they want" concerning the constitution.

The campaign against the draft constitution opposes a clause that would allow abortion to save a mother's life. Opponents also don't like a clause that would recognize informal courts used by Kenya's Islamic community.

A prominent backer of the campaign against the draft, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, called the attack "the darkest hour of our nation." He said the explosions would not deter the campaign against the draft constitution.

"Innocent blood has been shed by people with evil desires, and we are calling upon the police to take action," Ruto said. "The decision of whether we are going to have a new constitution or not belongs to the people of Kenya, and they have the right to say this or not. Those of us who are saying 'no' have committed no crime."

The blast took place in Uhuru Park, a wide expanse of green space in the middle of downtown Nairobi. Hundreds of people attended the rally.

Witnesses said the first blast took place at the back of the crowd, and that a speaker on the podium told the crowd to move toward the front, fearing an electrical blast. But minutes later a second blast took place toward the front of the crowd, wounding dozens more people.

Steve Odhiambo, a 28-year-old mechanical engineer, said rally participants were taking part in a prayer when the first explosion occurred. Darkness was setting in and the rally was just about to finish.

"I was about 50 yards (meters) from the blast, and I saw one person who had his lower body blasted off," Odhiambo said while wearing surgical gloves after helping take a woman to a hospital. The woman died of her wounds.