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Kenya arrests 'prime suspect' in deadly gas blast

By AFP
Kenya At least six people lost their lives in the gas blast and massive fire ball that ensued.  By LUIS TATO AFPFile
FEB 6, 2024 LISTEN
At least six people lost their lives in the gas blast and massive fire ball that ensued. By LUIS TATO (AFP/File)

Kenyan police said Tuesday they had arrested the main suspect in a deadly gas blast that triggered a huge fireball in a densely populated area of Nairobi last week.

A total of six people lost their lives in the disaster and around 280 were injured when a truck loaded with gas canisters exploded in Embakasi, in the southeast of the Kenyan capital, late Thursday.

Kenya's Directorate of Criminal Investigations said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that its investigators have arrested the "prime suspect" who rented the gas depot where the blast occurred.

"To ensure that justice has had its way, the DCI teams that are investigating the dreadful incident have so far arrested main suspect Derrick Kimathi alongside three NEMA officials who were found culpable," it added.

Officials from the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) have been accused of wrongly giving a licence for the LPG filling and storage plant in such a densely populated area.

"Five other suspects are still at large and are wanted by the DCI to answer to their crimes that have caused untold physical and emotional suffering to fellow Kenyans," the DCI statement said, accompanied by photographs of the suspects.

These include the manager of the site, another two NEMA employees, a truck driver and another driver, it said.

President William Ruto, without mentioning NEMA, said at the weekend that licences had been wrongly issued for gas installations in residential areas "because of incompetence and corruption".

Ruto said those responsible should be sacked and "prosecuted for the crimes they have committed".

NEMA had said on Saturday that a company, Maxxis Nairobi Energy, had obtained a permit to operate a gas plant at the site in February last year.

It said it had suspended four of its employees.

The huge inferno left a trail of destruction in the residential and industrial area, destroying vehicles, business premises and residential homes.

Embakasi has a population of about one million according to the 2019 census, and lies close to Kenya's international airport.

The Petroleum Institute of East Africa said the owner of the gas depot and some customers had previously been convicted and sentenced in May 2023.

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