The British government has issued a warning to its citizens abroad that a terrorist attack in Nairobi is imminent. This follows the activities of the Kenyan army in Somalia. The UK warning comes after a similar alert issued by the USA.
Kenya, particularly in its capital Nairobi and surrounding suburbs, is subject to a state of high alert with many governments warning their citizens resident in Kenya about an imminent attack. Such advice includes the British Foreign Office. The statement from the UK, issued on January 7, reads:
"The Kenyan authorities have alerted the public to a heightened threat from terrorist attacks in Nairobi. We believe that terrorists may be in the final stages of planning attacks. Attacks could be indiscriminate and target Kenyan institutions as well as places where expatriates and foreign travellers gather, such as hotels, shopping centres and beaches. We strongly advise British Nationals to exercise extra vigilance and caution in public places and at public events."
The U.S. government, as Bloomberg reported, has had a terror-threat alert for its own national in the East African country since October. This related to the date when Kenyan soldiers crossed over the north-eastern border into Somalia on the hunt for al-Qaeda-linked rebels. In recent years Kenya has been played a major role in the Somali and Sudanese peace processes.
However, it is unclear whether the government of the Republic of Kenya considers the level of threat to be as high as Western governments are indicating. CNN quotes Eric Kiraithe, an official spokesman for the Kenyan police, as stating: "we don't believe that we are under any more threat of a terror attack than London for example". However, Kiraithe went on to add: "people in hotels and shopping should take extra caution". Furthermore, Kenya's own News-24 indicates that another police official - Anthony Kibuchi - has stated that security has been stepped up. One reason for the mixed messages may be because Kenya is very reliant about tourism for its economy.
The latest alerts come in the wake of recent military engagements by the Kenyan army. Kenyan is carrying out military activity against al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia. In addition, Kenyan officials, as reported in the Kenyan Standard, have issued an arrest warrant for a British national - Natalie Faye Webb, together with a Kenyan Habib Saleh Gani - both of whom authorities believe is linked to terrorist groups.
USA Today recalls that al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the two suicide bomb attacks in July which occurred in Uganda, in which 76 people were killed.
This is not the first such alert to be raised in recent weeks. The BBC reports that Kenyan authorities recently, in December, thwarted a terrorist bomb plot. The plot is believed to have been organized by Islamic militants.