Friday, August 22, 2014

Kenya: Update--US Embassy in Nairobi to Be Closed Due to Terror Threat

According to the UK-based The Daily Mail, the US Embassy in Nairobi will be closed for two days next week--and longer if necessary--following a Pentagon alert that the threat of a terrorist act in Kenya had increased significantly, US Embassy spokesman Tom Hart said in Nairobi.

The closure on Monday and Tuesday (August 25-26) "and if necessary additional days thereafter" was due to what is described as "new and corroborated threat information concerning the continuing threat of terrorist activity in Kenya and East Africa."

COMMENT: The terror alert has been in effect at a lower level since a car-bomb attack in August 1998 on the previous embassy in central Nairobi killed 219 people, 12 of them Americans, and injured 5,000. Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network admitted responsibility for the attack.

A Pentagon official said the latest warning, issued on Thursday (August 21) by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was based on specific information  concerning a threat against a specific target.

The Embassy was closed before the Pentagon issued its alert, as part of an ongoing process to close the mission at least one day a week since May 15, when the US State Department issued an upgraded advisory warning US citizens against all non-essential travel to the East African nation.

Kenyan civil aviation authorities banned all air traffic between Kenya and neighboring Somalia, a lawless country beset by clan warfare that has not had a central government since 1991, and has been labeled a haven for terrorists by Pentagon officials.

Henry Ochieng, director of the Civil Aviation Authority's Air Navigation Services, said the ban, which affects a Somali-owned commercial passenger airline, United Nations, and dozens of small, private aircraft that ferry Kenyan-grown khat, a semi-narcotic leaf, to Somalia, was indefinite.

Kenyan Internal Security Minister Chris Murungaru was in Washington yesterday (August 21) for talks on the security situation with US officials. 

Murugaru's deputy, Dave Mwangi, said that rumors that a car-bomb had been assembled in Nairobi "have been around for two months….We have combed Nairobi, but haven't found anything. We would like to get something concrete, but we can't."