Ethnic clashes hit Nairobi after deadly bus bombing

Ethnic clashes hit Nairobi after deadly bus bombing

NAIROBI - Reuters
Ethnic clashes hit Nairobi after deadly bus bombing

Somali youths armed with machetes and wooden planks shout at Kenyans in the Somali district of Eastleigh.

Kenyan police fired tear gas to disperse rioters who attacked ethnic Somalis in the Nairobi district known as “Little Mogadishu” on Nov. 19, after a weekend bomb attack there killed nine people.

The violence coincided with the start of voter registration for a general election in March, adding to security concerns ahead of the first national polls since 2007 when a dispute over the results fuelled ethnic slaughter that killed more than 1,200 people and forced some 300,000 from their homes. Angry mobs broke into Somali homes and shops in anger at Nov. 18’s attack on a minibus which killed at least nine people in Nairobi’s Eastleigh district which is dominated by Somali Kenyans and their ethnic kin who have fled fighting in Somalia.

In the Eastleigh, crowds poured through the streets chanting “Somalis must go!” hurling rocks and smashing windows of some Somali apartment blocks. Rioters jeered police who fired warnings shots in the air, demanding the government improve security in a district that has borne the brunt of the grenade and gun attacks.

Ethnic Somalis, some armed with machetes, fought back and hurled rocks at their attackers, who responded with sling shots and stones. Paramilitary police fired volleys of teargas.

“We are trying to create a buffer zone so that people cannot cross over,” Nairobi regional police commander Moses Ombati told reporters. “These people are neighbors and business partners who need each other, so I don’t think it will last long,” he said.

Authorities have blamed Somali militants and their sympathizers for grenade and gun attacks in Kenya since Nairobi sent soldiers into neighboring Somalia last year to drive out al-Shabaab rebels, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda.

Attacks have intensified since Kenyan forces, fighting under an African Union banner, and Somali government troops routed al-Shabaab from their last major urban bastion, the Somali port of Kismayu last month and forced the rebels to flee.