NAIROBI - Ten people were killed and over 70 wounded Friday in two bomb attacks in a busy market in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the latest in a wave of unrest blamed on Islamist militants.
The twin bombings came as hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near the port city of Mombasa after Britain's Foreign Office and other nations issued new travel warnings.
The National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) said the first blast in the capital occurred next to a 14-seater matatu, or public minibus, and the second was inside a shop in Gikomba Market close to Nairobi's central business district.
A spokesman at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi's main hospital, said eight bodies had brought in and "more than 70" people admitted for treatment, many of them in a serious condition. The NDOC then revised the death toll up to 10, while another hospital said it had received around 14 patients.
"Many of the injured are bleeding profusely. We need a lot of blood," the spokesman, Simon Ithae, told AFP as the hospital issued an appeal for donors.
Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue confirmed that two bombs had been used, and the area was littered with debris including clothing hurled into overhead power and telephone lines.
"Two IEDs were detonated simultaneously," Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue told reporters at the scene, trying to reassure an increasingly sceptical public that the security forces are in control.
"Don't panic. We are on top of things," he said. Police also said two suspects had been arrested.
Earlier this month three people were killed and 86 wounded in twin bus blasts in Nairobi that were blamed on Islamic militant cells connected with Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels. The previous day, twin attacks left four dead in Mombasa.
Kenya has been targeted by the Shebab since sending troops to war-torn Somalia in 2011. Kenyan soldiers are still posted in southern Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting the country's fragile internationally-backed government.
A victim of a IED attack shows his wounds at the Guru nanak Hospital near the scene of an explosion on May 16, 2014 on the outskirts of Nairobi's business district where twin explosions claimed at least 10 lives. PHOTO BY AFP
On Thursday and Friday, hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near Mombasa following new warnings of terror attacks from Britain's Foreign Office. France, Australia and the United States also issued similar warnings this week to avoid Mombasa, and in some cases Nairobi.
Thomson and First Choice, which are owned by London-listed TUI Travel, Europe's biggest tour operator, said they had also decided to cancel all flights to the coastal city until November.
"As a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya back to the UK," Thomson and First Choice said in a statement. The evacuation, which continued Friday, involved nearly 450 holidaymakers, company sources said.
The Kenyan government has expressed "disappointment" and has accused countries that are telling tourists to stay away of "unfriendly acts".
"Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic," the government said.
Sam Ikwaye of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, said the evacuations were a "huge blow" to tourism, which directly or indirectly accounts for 14 percent of Kenya's economic output and roughly 12 percent of the workforce.
He said beach hotels in the region were now facing a drop in revenue of up to 70 percent, and that he feared that "the decision by the British is likely to influence other countries to do the same".
Last month Kenya confirmed that the number of foreign visitors to the country -- a top safari and beach destination -- slumped by 11 percent in 2013, when the country was gripped by fears of election-related political violence.
The current year is expected to also see a massive drop, particularly in the wake of the Shebab's high-profile attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last September in which at least 67 people were killed.
There have been no verified claims of responsibility for the latest wave of bombings -- although Kenyan authorities have been engaged in a major security crackdown on suspected Shebab supporters in Nairobi and Mombasa.
The operation has focused on Nairobi's main Somali district Eastleigh, and residents have accused police of indiscriminately arresting people of Somali origin.