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Kenya clears up after failed coup by Air Force, but deeper scars remain

Nairobi is still recovering from the abortive coup launched by the Kenya Air Force on Sunday, which was crushed by the Kenya Army and police forces.

The streets of Nairobi are a shambles after a looting rampage that took place during the breakdown of law and order. Storefronts have been vandalized and shop windows smashed.

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But even as shopkeepers are clearing away the trash and trying to board up shattered windows, there are signs of deeper scars in this once peaceful East African country. On Tuesday, a newspaper editorial said, ''The open rebellion by the Kenya Air Force will not be forgotten easily. It will leave a permanent scar on the political life of the nation.''

Government security forces are trying to solve the mystery of who was behind the attempted coup by the Kenyan Air Force. Government sources quoted by the Daily Nation Tuesday said the rebel leader was a Colonel Mwanthi, the officer commanding the Air Force base at Embakasi, close to Nairobi airport.

Two other Air Force bases were involved as well - Eastleigh and the big base in the north, Nanyuki, where Kenya's American F-5 fighter squadron is stationed, with American instructors.

In addition to sending Air Force troops to take Nairobi, planes bombed the headquarters of Kenya's crack paramilitary general service unit on the outskirts of the city, killing an unknown number of people.

The attempted coup also involved the capture of the Nairobi radio station. Rebels held it for four hours, before the station was recaptured by loyal troops in a bloody battle.

By about lunch time on Sunday the radio, again in government hands, was broadcasting that the Army was in full control and the abortive coup was over.

But the problems remain.

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More than 1,000 Air Force officers and men are being held for interrogation. Hundreds have disappeared into the deep Kenyan bush to escape arrest.

The government is obviously shattered by the intervention of the Kenya Air Force, until now regarded as perhaps the most loyal of the armed forces.

Today the government appealed to shopkeepers to open their shops so people can buy provisions. But many shops have been emptied of goods.

The damage, it is estimated, runs into tens of millions, and it is doubtful whether there is enough glass in Kenya to repair windows. Businessmen say the attempted coup has set the country back years economically after signs of recovery were appearing.

While the radio was in rebel hands, the government was accused of corruption by ''a few greedy and irresponsible bandits - a gang of local tyrants.'' It appeared that the Air Force was arming dissident university students, some of whom were heard on the radio supporting wholeheartedly and unconditionally ''the August 1 revolution.'' On Monday, the government closed the university.

The attempted coup came after a government campaign against suspected Marxist dissidents at the university and elsewhere in which seven were detained, including four university lecturers.

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