NAIROBI - Kenyan police have arrested more than 650 suspects a day after six people were killed in bomb attacks in the capital Nairobi, the interior minister said Tuesday, in a crackdown on suspected Islamist insurgents.
"This act of cowardice perpetrated against innocent and peace-loving Kenyans who were going about their normal activities is barbaric," Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement.
"So far 657 suspects have been apprehended," he added.
Kenyan police regularly arrest scores of people after similar attacks in sweeping security operations, but later release most after questioning.
The three blasts on Monday evening targeted two small restaurants and a local clinic in a particularly densely populated area of Eastleigh, an area often known as Little Mogadishu because of its predominantly Somali population.
"We are here at a crime scene. Of course we suspect it is a terrorist attack," Nairobi police commander Benson Kibue told reporters on Monday night.
"The injuries number 25 -- they are in various hospitals -- and we have retrieved six bodies," he said.
Police were still trying to establish the type of explosives used, with Kibue saying one of the blasts might have been a homemade bomb and other witnesses at the scene of the different attacks saying one or more grenades were thrown.
Eastleigh has in recent years been the scene of several explosions usually attributed by the police to Islamist extremists.
Rescue workers wanted to retrieve parts from bodies blown apart by the biggest blast, but police, present at the scene in large numbers, had cordoned off the area and were first searching it for further possible explosives, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
The blasts came as people made their way home for the evening, some stopping for a bite to eat.
Relatives console each other at the scene of an explosion on March 31, 2014 in the main Somali district of Nairobi which left at least six people dead and scores injured, raising suspicions of terrorism. PHOTO BY AFP
The attack comes a week after six people died when assailants burst into a church in the Likoni district close to the port city of Mombasa and opened fire on worshippers.
The latest attacks have happened amid heightened warnings of a threat of Islamist violence in Kenya and despite boosted security in major cities.
A suspected assailant was killed on Sunday when an explosive device he was making blew up in his face.
The discovery earlier this month of an explosive-laden vehicle parked at a police station in a district of Mombasa, and the revelation that the police only searched it six days after impounding it and arresting its occupants added to the climate of insecurity.
Kibue assured the public that those behind Monday's attack will be brought to justice.
"Rest assured, whoever has done this thing, we will get them. There is no need to panic. We are on top of these issues," he said.
Kenya has been hit by a series of attacks since sending troops into southern Somalia in October 2011 to battle Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.
The Islamists claimed responsibility for the most deadly attack, in which they laid siege to Nairobi's upmarket shopping mall Westgate in September, killing at least 67.
Dozens of other smaller attacks, most of them in the capital, on the coast or in the eastern and northeastern regions bordering Somalia, have been attributed to Shebab sympathisers.