A property dispute is being investigated as an alternate theory of the crime in last Sunday bombing of St Cyprian’s Anglican Church in Nairobi which left one child dead and six seriously wounded.
While the 30 September 2012 attack on St Cyprian’s has all the hallmarks of an operation by the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabaab, the question whether the bombing was related to a lawsuit between the church and a property developer pending in the Nairobi courts is also being considered.
Initial witness statements said two men of Somali appearance and dress were seen fleeing the scene after the explosion and were said to have thrown grenades. However other witness reports said no one was in the alley when the explosion took place.
Nairobi’s police commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu reported that an examination of the crime scene indicated a limpet mine or an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) containing nails, ball-bearings and other pieces of shrapnel was electronically detonated alongside the wall of the Christian education building of St Cyprian’s Anglican Church at approximately 10:30 local time. Shrapnel from the blast killed an eight year old boy and wounded several children attending a Bible study. Six children were taken in serious condition to the capital’s Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment.
Popular sentiment in Nairobi lays the blast on al Shabaab. The Somali terror group has been responsible for a series of low level bombings of churches and public buildings in Nairobi and in towns along the border with Kenya. Last year it claimed responsibility for a series of blasts in Kampala that killed 74.
The week before the attack at St Cyprian’s Kenyan troops drove al Shabaab from the Somali town of Kismayo, the group’s last stronghold along the coast. Affiliated with al Qaeda, al Shabaab had vowed to hit back at Kenya and other nations participating in the African Union peace keeping force in Somalia. Kenya’s press has speculated that the use of an IED at a church would be in keeping with the group’s past attacks.
However, the use of an IED might have been a copycat attack designed to drive the church off its land. The land on which the Sunday school building sits is the focus of a protracted legal battle between the church and a property developer – a former parishioner.
Asked at a press conference whether he believed the bombing was political, or a dispute over land, Kenya’s Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said he did not know, nor was it fruitful for him to speculate. This was a “crime” he said, that called for prompt police action.
In a statement released after the bombing, Archbishop Wabukala said:“This is a cruel provocation, but I appeal to Christians not to feed violence with violence, either in word or deed, because we are called to overcome evil with good.”