Explosion hits downtown Nairobi, 16 wounded

TOM ODULA
The scene of the explosion  on a busy road in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, May 28, 2012. An apparent explosion ripped through a building, full of small shops in downtown Nairobi on Monday, wounding an unknown number of people. The force of the blast ripped apart the one-story building's aluminum roof, but a high-rise building with a glass exterior right next to the blast did not appear to sustain major damage.  There was no immediate word on casualties or what caused the blast. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
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The scene of the explosion on a busy road in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, May 28, 2012. An apparent explosion ripped through a building, full of small shops in downtown Nairobi on Monday, wounding an unknown number of people. The force of the blast ripped apart the one-story building's aluminum roof, but a high-rise building with a glass exterior right next to the blast did not appear to sustain major damage. There was no immediate word on casualties or what caused the blast. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An explosion ripped through a building full of small shops in downtown Nairobi on Monday, wounding at least 16 people, the police commissioner said.

He could not immediately say what caused the blast.

The force of the explosion ripped apart the one-story building's aluminum roof, but a high-rise building with a glass exterior right next to the blast did not appear to sustain major damage.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said at least 16 people were wounded.

Another high-ranking police official said there were no obvious signs that the blast was caused by a terrorist's bomb. No ball bearings or nails — lethal shrapnel packed into bombs — were found, and officials were investigating the possibility that a faulty electrical line caused the explosion. The official said he could not be quoted by name.

People with bloody wounds received medical care right after the blast, as authorities tried to usher hundreds of people in the street away from the scene. TV images showed thick black smoke billowing out of the building in the moments after the blast, which happened shortly after 1 p.m. The smoke then turned white.

Al-Shabab militants from neighboring Somalia have long threatened to carry out substantial attacks in Kenya following Kenya's decision last October to send troops into Somalia to pursue al-Shabab militants.

Kenya has suffered a series of grenade attacks in recent months, but Monday's blast appeared to have been caused by something larger than a grenade.

The building that was attacked housed a series of small stalls. Items for sale in the shops — like shoes and clothes — were scattered on the ground after the blast.