Skip to comments.U.S. Fears Possible Attacks in Kenya
Posted on 12/02/2003 8:39:45 AM PST by TexKat
NAIROBI, Kenya - The U.S. Embassy warned American citizens Tuesday of a potential terrorist attack on two hotels in downtown Nairobi and two bank buildings were evacuated due to a bomb threat.
"The U.S. government recently received an anonymous warning detailing terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests in downtown Nairobi ... the timing of the threat is within the next several days," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
Although the "information has not been corroborated," it was released in the interest of public safety," the statement said.
United Nations security officials also warned employees from visiting the downtown area on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Barclay's Bank building was evacuated at midday Wednesday after the KLM airline office received a phone call saying there was a bomb in the building, Patrick Kinyua, head of security for the building, said. Until this year, the building housed the U.S. Embassy public affairs office.
A second Barclay's branch office in downtown Nairobi was later evacuated when the manager received a similar threat.
The Kenyan police deployed their paramilitary unit to both hotels and the bank buildings.
Information Minister Raphael Tuju confirmed to The Associated Press that the government had information about a threat to two downtown hotels in Nairobi, saying "we're evaluating it and taking the necessary action."
He refused to give any details because "it's not appropriate."
"We've had similar kind of warnings in the past but I don't want to go into the details," Tuju said.
Al-Qaida has twice struck the East African country and there are indications a third attack is being planned Kenyan police reportedly uncovered a plot to destroy the new U.S. Embassy this past June.
The old embassy was destroyed in 1998 by a car bomb, an attack that killed 219 people, including 12 Americans.
In November 2002, a car bomb blew up outside the Paradise Hotel north of the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, killing 15 people, including three Israeli tourists.
At about the same time, two shoulder-fired missiles narrowly missed an Israeli airliner as it was taking off from Mombasa's airport.
Five Kenyans have been charged with murder in the hotel attack. Another three Kenyans have been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony for their alleged roles in the November 2002 attacks, the 1998 car bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and the plot to destroy the new U.S. Embassy.
On the Web: U.S. State Department www.state.gov
Wednesday December 3, 1:12 AM
Security scare in Nairobi amid warnings of suicide attacks on hotels
Two top hotels in Nairobi were on alert amid warnings they may be targeted by suicide bombers, as two other buildings housing a British bank and the French embassy were evacuated due to bomb scares.
The warnings against the two hotels were sent to two diplomatic missions in the Kenyan capital, the UN security department in the city said in a copy of the text received by AFP.
"Two major diplomatic missions have reported receiving credible reports of the possibility of suicide attacks in Nairobi on Wednesday morning (December 3) targeting two major hotels, The Stanley and The Hilton," the message issued by the UN complex in Nairobi said.
The US State Department also warned US nationals in Kenya, a former British colony and longtime US ally, of the possible threat of attacks "over the next several days."
British High Commission spokesman Mark Norton told AFP the mission was "aware" of the alert, but said it was not the source for it.
Israeli deputy head of mission in Kenya, Gild Millo, said his country had not renewed the travel advisory after the alerts.
"I have heard of the alerts," Millo told AFP, adding: "It's wonderful they were just alerts, not bombings."
Millo, however, said "Israeli nationals are advised to be in top alert everywhere they go."
Meanwhile, a branch of British bank, Barclays, and an office block called Barclays Plaza, housing the French embassy and another Barclays branch in central Nairobi, were evacuated amid bomb scares, according to AFP journalists.
Sniffer dogs were deployed in both buildings.
"We have been told there is a bomb scare in the building and we were asked to evacuate immediately," branch manager Charles Karanja said outside one of the bank's branch on Mama Ngina Street.
"Barclays Plaza was evacuated shortly before 12:00 noon (0900 GMT), but was declared after three hours of intensive inspection," an security guard at the premises told AFP.
Barclays Bank remained closed the rest of the day, except for customers who access their money using Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Kenya has twice been targeted by suicide bombers in recent years. Once in November 2002 when an Israeli hotel on the Indian Ocean coast was attacked killing 18, and in August 1998 when suicide bombers struck the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing 224 people.
One diplomatic source in Nairobi said Tuesday's alert originated from a message received on the website of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.
"So the credibility is rather low. It could just be someone having fun. But it cannot be ignored."
The UN alert added: "It is difficult to ascertain the veracity of this information at this stage and whether these two named hotels are the actual targets.
"Both hotels are aware of this new information and have stated that they are taking all possible and necessary security precautions to prevent/minimize the risk of anything happening with immediate effect," it added.
"Kenyan police, who are liaising very closely with the two hotels and others, are also in the picture and has included additional armed policemen and security personnel around both hotels," it said.
Three Kenyans are currently facing charges relating to a plot to blow up the new US embassy building on the outskirts of Nairobi in June this year.
Kenya's vulnerability to terrorist activity is enhanced by its long coastline and border with lawless Somalia, which has lacked a central government since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Last month, a report commissioned by the United Nations warned that persistent violations of an arms embargo in Somalia had allowed "transnational terrorists ... to obtain ... man-portable air defence systems, light anti-tank weapons and explosives" from the country.
"Additional weapons may have since (last year's attacks in Kenya) been imported into Somalia solely for the purpose of carrying out further terrorist attacks," it warned.