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U.S. warns of terror threats in Kenya
Saturday, July 13, 2013

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The United States has renewed its travel advisory to Kenya warning Americans of the risks of travel in the East African nation after at least 125 lives lost in the past 18 months due to terrorism related activities.

The fresh warning from the U.S. Department of State cautions Americans residing in Kenya and those considering travel to Kenya to evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas.

“At least 125 people died in these attacks, and around 270 people were injured. No U.S. citizens were among the casualties,” Washington said in its latest travel advisory which was received on Monday.

“More than two dozen of these attacks occurred in North Eastern Province, mainly in Dadaab, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera. Four attacks occurred in Mombasa,” the statement said.

However, the State Department says there are no restrictions on travel to Kenya’s most popular tourist destinations such as Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, Tsavo, Lamu Island, Hell’s Gate, Samburu, Mount Kenya, Malindi, and Nairobi.

“Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following local press, radio, and television reports prior to their visits. Visitors should also consult their hosts, including U.S. and Kenyan business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers.”

The East African nation is facing a great challenge in dealing with the ‘enemy within’, who has executed several terror attacks undetected as Kenya Defence Forces and its allies effectively fight external aggressors – Al Shabaab in southern Somalia.

The updated warning comes as the East African nation has increasingly faced a major onslaught from Al-Shabaab militants from Somalia who have been hurling grenade and bomb attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and northern region.

Several civilians including policemen have been killed especially in the northern counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera which are near the border with Somalia.

Subsequent efforts to fight terrorism and neutralise Al-Shabaab threats have seen Anti-Terrorism Police Unit arrest dozens of other Kenyans on suspicion of being members of the Somali terror group.

It is such suspects, and dozens others, born and bred in Kenya and who are believed to be sympathisers of Al-Shabaab that the East African nation is grappling with in its fight against terror.

Police have said that most of those who are being used to carry out terror attacks in Kenya are its own youth, who have been enlisted in the Somali-based extremist group. Most of them are from upcountry Kenya and are recent converts to Islam.

In its advisory, Washington cautioned U.S. citizens and their dependents to refrain from traveling to North Eastern Province, the site of more than two dozen terror attacks as well as in the coastal area north of Pate Island.

“The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports,” the advisory notes.

It says although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region.

“Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, grenade attacks, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi,” it says.

According to the advisory, U.S. citizens, including U.S. Embassy employees, have been victims of such crimes within the past year.

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