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KENYA

10 killed and 70 injured in twin terror blasts at market in Nairobi, Kenya

Bombings in Nairobi also leave 70 wounded as hundreds of British tourists are evacuated from resorts near Mombasa in fear of terror attacks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 2:10am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 2:20am

Ten people were killed and more than 70 wounded yesterday in two bomb attacks in a busy market in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the latest in a wave of unrest blamed on Islamist militants.

The twin bombings came as hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near the port city of Mombasa after Britain's Foreign Office and other nations issued new travel warnings.

The National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) said the first blast occurred next to a 14-seater public minibus and the second was inside a shop in Gikomba market close to Nairobi's central business district.

The NDOC confirmed that 10 people were killed in the blasts, while a spokesman at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi's main hospital, said "more than 70" people were admitted for treatment, many of them in a serious condition.

"Many of the injured are bleeding profusely. We need a lot of blood," the spokesman, Simon Ithae, said as the hospital issued an appeal for donors.

Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue confirmed that two bombs had been used, and the area was littered with debris including clothing hurled into overhead power and telephone lines.

"Two IEDs were detonated simultaneously," Kibue said at the scene, trying to reassure an increasingly sceptical public that the security forces are in control.

"Don't panic. We are on top of things," he said. Police also said two suspects had been arrested.

Earlier this month three people were killed and 86 wounded in twin bus blasts in Nairobi blamed on Islamic militant cells connected with Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebels. The previous day, twin attacks left four dead in Mombasa.

Kenya has been targeted by al-Shabab since sending troops to war-torn Somalia in 2011.

On Thursday and yesterday, hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near Mombasa following new warnings of terror attacks from Britain's Foreign Office.

France, Australia and the US also issued similar warnings this week to avoid Mombasa, and in some cases Nairobi.

Hong Kong's alert level for Kenya is amber - warning tourists to monitor the situation and exercise caution.

Thomson and First Choice, owned by London-listed TUI Travel, Europe's biggest tour operator, said they had also decided to cancel all flights to the coastal city until November.

"As a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya back to the UK," Thomson and First Choice said. The evacuation, which continued yesterday, involved nearly 450 holidaymakers. The Kenyan government expressed its "disappointment" and has accused countries that are warning tourists to stay away of "unfriendly acts".

"Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic," the government said.

Sam Ikwaye, of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, said the evacuations were a "huge blow" to tourism, which directly or indirectly accounts for 14 per cent of Kenya's economic output and 12 per cent of the workforce.

He said beach hotels in the region were now facing a drop in revenue of up to 70 per cent and that he feared that "the decision by the British is likely to influence other countries to do the same".

Last month, Kenya confirmed that the number of foreign visitors to the country - a top safari and beach destination - slumped by 11 per cent last year, when the country was gripped by fears of election-related political violence.

This year is expected to also see a massive drop, particularly in the wake of al-Shabab's high-profile attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last September in which at least 67 people were killed.

There have been no verified claims of responsibility for the latest wave of bombings, although Kenyan authorities have been engaged in a major security crackdown on suspected al-Shabab supporters in Nairobi and Mombasa.

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