The two young Somali men arrived a little under a month ago and rented a small service quarter in Bole-Mikeal, an upmarket neighbourhood a short drive from Ethiopia’s international airport.
The men claimed to be students, kept mostly to themselves and didn’t disturb anyone till this Sunday afternoon when, Ethiopian authorities said, they accidentally detonated a powerful homemade bomb in their room and died.
“They were Somali, they came a month ago to kill people but they killed themselves,” said a young girl, summing up all that anyone in the area seems to know of these mysterious tenants.
“We are identifying the men,” said a local administrator, explaining that the bodies had been torn apart by the explosion, “There were body parts stuck on the ceiling.”
The area has a large community of Somalis fleeing the violence in their country. “Many are refugees,” said one resident, “They come for a few months, get a transit visa and go on ahead. Some stay for years.”
The Ethiopian police have forbidden residents from speaking to reporters.
Ethiopia’s Information Minister Redwan Hussein told reporters that security forces found explosives and what looked like a suicide belt and vest amongst the rubble, along with a jersey of the Ethiopian football team. At least four people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Ethiopian officials said the evidence suggests the men could have plotted to detonate the bomb amongst the thousands of fans who had gathered to watch Ethiopia play Nigeria in a FIFA world cup qualifier staged at the nearby national stadium on Sunday afternoon. Ethiopia lost the match 1-2, after a last minute penalty.
The failed bomb plot comes less than a month after gunmen, allied to the Al-Shabab militia, killed at least 62 people when they raided an upmarket shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The Kenya attack, Al-Shabab said, was in response to the Kenyan army’s deployment in anti-Shabab military operations in Somalia.
The Ethiopian army is also deployed in Somalia, and officials have repeatedly warned that Al-Shabab was planning an attack on Ethiopian soil.
“Our security forces are going to continue with their support to Amisom and the Somali defense force,” said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn in a recent press conference, “They will stay there until we are assured that Al Shabab is not a threat to the region and Somalia in particular.”
On Sunday, a twitter account believed to be controlled by Al Shabab took credit for the explosion and claimed that two more bombs had been planted at separate locations in the city, according to an emergency briefing issued to American citizens by the U.S. Embassy. Ethiopian officials were unavailable for comment.