The United States Embassy in Kenya has put out a warning of a possible terrorist attack in Nairobi on which “is in the last stages of planning” in a statement released just a few hours ago on the embassy’s website.
Although the timing of the attack is not known, the US embassy has identified hotels and prominent government buildings as the most likely targets for an attack and has warned American citizens to be extra cautious.
The source of the information leading to the issuing of the warning has not been divulged but it is likely to have come from an informant or intercepted emails or phone messages. Either way, the information must be of sufficient substance for the terrorist-attack warning to have been published.
‘CREDIBLE INFORMATION’ OF ATTACK
The statement reads: “The US Embassy informs US citizens residing or visiting Kenya that the US Embassy in Nairobi has received credible information regarding a possible attack on Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings… Timing of the attack is not known, however, the Embassy has reason to believe that the potential attack is in the last stages of planning. The US Embassy urges Americans to remain aware of their surroundings and vigilant of their personal security.”
It goes without saying that Kenyan citizens should equally heed the warning from the US embassy.
Kenya’s deputy police spokesman Charles Owino told a news agency that, “This statement cannot be taken for granted. It is something that we are taking with a lot of seriousness. We have to use all the possible means to avert the attack”.
EARLIER WARNINGS OF NAIROBI ATTACK
The latest statement comes only a month after the US State Department warned of “continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas”. The US government, the statement continued that it, “continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at US, Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, particularly after the death of Osama Bin Laden”.
The UK issued a similar warning to its nationals earlier this year.
US EMBASSY ATTACK 1998 – AL SHABAAB LIKELY DANGER THIS TIME
It was of course, the massive bomb attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi in August 1998, in which 213 people were killed and some 4,000 injured that brought Al Qaeda and
the name Osama Bin Laden to world attention.
The more likely source of the threat this time is Al-Shabaab who has been put on the back foot in Somalia following Kenyans military action into the south of the country which began last October.
In recent weeks there has been increased speculation that Al-Shabaab will want to show that they can fight back and that an attack on a ‘soft target’ in Nairobi would be a likely move by the terrorist group.
Although such warnings damage Kenya’s tourism industry and cause disruption to our daily lives the US Embassy is in a difficult position. If it does not put out a warning and there is subsequently attack, it would be criticized. Equally, when it does issue a warning it is criticized for damaging Kenya’s economy and image abroad.
Damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t, the US authorities were right to put Kenya on high alert.