Friday 26 December 2014

Australia warns of attacks against foreigners on Kenyan coast

Published 24/10/2013 | 12:12

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta pays tribute to his nephew Mbugua Mwangi and his fiancee Rosemary Wahito, at their funeral service in Nairobi. The couple died in the Westgate Mall attack. (AP)
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Militants may be planning attacks on nightclubs and other spots popular with foreign tourists visiting the Kenyan city of Mombasa, the Australian government said in a travel alert on Thursday.

A spokesman for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said visitors to the coastal city were safe, and the government viewed such warnings as "unnecessary and uncalled for".

Kenya has been on heightened alert since gunmen from the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab raided an upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi last month, hurling grenades and spraying bullets at shoppers.

At least 67 people were killed in the four-day siege that began on Sept. 21. Al Shabaab said it launched the attack to punish Kenya for sending troops to fight it inside Somalia.

"Information of late-October 2013 indicates extremists may be planning attacks on nightclubs and other places frequented by foreigners along Malindi Road in Mombasa," said an alert on Smart Traveller, the Australian government's travel advice website. It did not say which group or groups might be involved.

Palm-lined Malindi Road houses luxury hotels and beach-front villas which are popular with Western visitors.

Presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu said Kenyan security forces had always acted on information about threats against foreigners and had prevented attacks in the past. "Specifically in Mombasa's case we've improved and beefed up security there, so we are very confident that all tourists in Mombasa are safe."

Mombasa and the rest of Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline depend heavily on tourism, which has suffered in the past year because of Western security warnings and riots over the killings of two Islamic clerics.

In 2002, al Qaeda bombed the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa in an attack that killed 15 people, including three Israelis. One the same day the militants tried to shoot down an Israeli jet with an anti-aircraft missile as it was taking off.

Uganda last week heightened its terrorism alert to the maximum for the first time since al Shabaab bombings in 2010 that killed 79 people. It cited domestic and U.S. intelligence indications of an imminent attack by Islamist militants.

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