Islamist Militants Suspected in Deadly Grenade Attack on Pentecostal Church in Kenya

A grenade attack on a Pentecostal church in the town of Garissa in eastern Kenya killed two people Saturday, officials have announced.

In addition, at least three other people, a woman and two children, were injured, according to The Associate Press, after the grenade was thrown into the compound of the East African Pentecostal Church late on Saturday.

Ibrahim Makunyi, the head pastor, told the AP that a house near the entrance of the church that belonged to a church elder had been bombed, and that the two dead are a member of the choir and the son of the church elder.

"We heard a blast and saw a flash light up the area. I rushed to the site and saw two people lying in a pool of blood, dead. Three others were wounded and screaming for help," Garissa resident Abdirahman Yussuf told Reuters.

Police have opened an investigation, but no arrests have been made, though a group of Islamist militants linked to Somalia-based al-Shabab, which sympathizes with al-Qaida, is reportedly suspected.

The police have also stated that another bomb was thrown Saturday at a busy taxi circle frequented by military officers, but failed to explode. The bombings have followed a blast in the world’s largest refugee camp in eastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia, according to the AP. No one was injured in that explosion, which happened only hours before the church bombing.

Most media have attributed the motifs behind the attacks to politics.

Kenya has been subject to attacks since it sent troops into neighboring Somalia last month to fight al-Qaida-linked rebels. Garissa is an important military base in Kenya, from where ground forces have been deployed across the frontier, according to Reuters.

But Al-Shabab, a terrorist group fighting to overthrow the Somalian government, has reportedly denied involvement in the church attack. The group has accused Kenya of planning a full-scale invasion of Somalia.

The website of the U.S. Department of State describes the portion of Kenya bordering Somalia and Ethiopia as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents.

Kenya is a predominantly Christian country, with 45 percent of the population declared as Protestants, 33 percent as Roman Catholics, and only 10 percent as Muslims, according to CIA data.

Still, violence against Christians is not unheard of in the country. Only last week, a Christian man was brutally beaten nearly to death in Nairobi, allegedly by young Muslim men, and left bleeding by the door of a church.

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