The recent spate of explosions that have rocked Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighbourhood in Kenya has taken a new twist with the apparent targeting of Mr. Yusuf Hassan, a member of Parliament who was injured in a blast outside a Nairobi mosque.
The cowardly attack that claimed five lives has left 37 others injured, 8 of them critically. Two people died on the spot while three others succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment in hospital. According to eye witness accounts, a grenade was hurled at worshippers as they left after the evening payers at Hidaya Mosque at around 8:00pm local time on Friday evening. Mr. Yusuf Hassan, the area MP, was among the worshippers who were leaving the mosque at the time of the explosion raising fears that the attack was politically motivated.
The popular MP was rushed to Nairobi’s Aga Khan Hospital where doctors say he is in stable condition and expected to fully recover from his injuries. He sustained fractures to his legs and a cut to his hand. On Saturday, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and a large contingent of politicians visited the injured legislator and called for the Nairobi Police to conduct swift investigations to apprehend the culprits of the heinous crime.
Riled by the violent attack, irate youths lit tyres and went on the rampage in Eastleigh’s streets before Police moved in to restore order. The mosque attack comes only two days after another explosion last Wednesday near Joska supermarket in Eastleigh killed one man and injured 8 others. It is also the third attack in the same area in just three weeks after a device planted in a mini bus plying the Eastleigh route exploded on November 19, killing nine passengers. Kenyan MPs have decried the alarming rise in terrorist attacks in Eastleigh and have called upon the government to take drastic steps to stem the tide. The Eastleigh area is only about four kilometres from Nairobi’s Central Business District.
Photo: Ogaal Radio, 88.9FM
Mr. Yusuf Hassan (left) MP for the Kamukunji Constituency, Nairobi, Kenya, in Toronto during his Canada Day keynote address on July 1, 2011, with Hassan Karate, anchor of Ogaal Radio and entrepreneur Mariam Adam.
Media reports state that Eastleigh has become the main target of attacks carried out in Kenya by Somali-based Al-Shabaab militants. The area is predominantly inhabited by Kenyan-Somalis and also a large segment of Somalis who have fled the civil strife in their home country and settled in this sprawling neighbourhood transforming it into a thriving business hub.
The Kenyan Police have blamed most Easleigh explosions on Somali militants engaging in retaliatory attacks after being driven out of their stronghold in the Port City of Kismayu in southern Somalia following Kenyan military incursions into the war-torn nation.
Last month, Mr. Farah Maalim, the Deputy Speaker of the Kenyan National Assembly who was on a three - city Canadian tour told a massive Toronto gathering that Kenya’s ongoing military operations in Somalia was necessitated by deteriorating security stemming from cross-border terror attacks by Al-Shabab extremists who destabilized the region’s fragile security and threatened to send Kenya’s economy into ruins.
“We have gone into Somalia not because we have territorial or imperial ambitions, but because we were going to suffer the same fate as Somalia” said Mr. Maalim, reiterating his government’s position that Kenya had no choice but to act against the Somali militants.
Following the mosque attack, the Nairobi Police have conducted a swoop in the Eastleigh area nabbing close to 300 people, most of them Somali nationals without proper documentation.
Nairobi police Chief Moses Ombati told reporters that police are following several leads in bid to arrest those responsible for the attack adding that they have the registration number of the car used in the attack. Witnesses told the police they saw a man jumping into a white car that sped away from the scene after hurling the grenade at the mosque’s entrance.
Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya.
Mr. Yusuf Hassan who was in Toronto in July last year to attend Canada Day festivities at the invitation of Toronto’s Somali-Canadian community, was elected into office as Member of Parliament for Kamukunji constituency on August 18, 2011 after garnering close to 20,000 votes in a by-election. He became the first area MP of Somali descent and the first ever Kenyan-Somali parliamentarian from Nairobi County.
Prior to running for political office, Mr. Yusuf Hassan served as an international journalist who once headed the BBC East African Service and held several executive level positions at the UN. He is well-known for his life-long advocacy for human rights, social justice and equality in Kenya. He became politicized in his high school days and was expelled from school for leading a strike.
He was radicalized by the repressive policies and practices of the Kenyan government against its minority Somali ethnic group, the plight of the dispossessed Kenyan peasantry and the impoverished urban dwellers of Nairobi. He fled the country in 1977 following heightened state repression and the detention without trial of several leading Kenyans.
Mr. Yusuf Hassan holds a BA (Hons) from the University of Middlesex in London, studied for postgraduate degree in politics and public administration at the University of London, and holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts in US. Since his election last year, he has become one of the most vocal MPs in the Kenyan Parliament giving a strong voice to the historically marginalized Kamukunji constituency.