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Kenya: tourist evacuations, accusations, then explosions

May 20, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Big tour companies have evacuated hundreds of tourists from Kenya over the past few days after intelligence agencies received information that Somalia-based Islamists linked to al-Qaida were about to launch a new wave of attacks. Australia, Britain, the US and France issued advisories and British operators pulled out holidaymakers and cancelled trips.

Kenya objected to the moves, saying the advisories by the four countries only served to spread fear and panic in the country.

The day after Kenya made that objection, two explosions shattered a market in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, killing 10 people and injuring many more.

Before the latest attacks, the Kenyan Government described the advisories as “unfriendly acts coming from partners who have borne the brunt of GetawaysbyDusit_Banner250x250global terrorism”.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said Britain, the US, Australia and France should understand repercussions of terror.

“The challenges arising from acts of terrorism require concerted efforts to fight it and not behaving in a manner that accelerates it by causing fear and panic. Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements on society whose aim is to spread fear and panic among otherwise peace-loving people,” he stated.

The truth, however, is that no government can learn of a credible threat to attack, kill and maim its citizens overseas without warning them, usually in the form of an advisory. Britain and Australia were caught out in 2002, when two bombs tore through a tourist area of Bali, killing 202 people.

TUI Travel, which operates the big UK brands Thomson and First Choice, acted before the latest bombs went off in Kenya, cancelling all flights there up to the end of October and flying back holidaymakers. Kuoni was also reported at the weekend to have suspended holiday travel to Kenya.

Thomson Airways said on its website: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now advising against all but essential travel to Mombasa island, Kenya.

“As a result of the change in FCO advice, the decision has been taken to cancel all our outbound flights to Mombasa, Kenya up to and including 31 October.”

As a precautionary measure, the British firm decided to repatriate all its customers currently on holiday in Kenya. Reports suggest Thomson has about 400 customers in Kenya, including those in Mombasa and on safari.

Australia’s DFAT issued an urgent update over the weekend, stating:  “On 16 May 2014, explosions in Nairobi’s Gikomba market area killed at least 10 people and injured many others. On 3 May at least three people were killed following explosions in a bus terminal in Mombasa and another at a hotel in Nyali. On 4 May at least four people were killed and more than 90 wounded when two explosive devices were detonated on passenger buses in Nairobi. On 24 April extremists attempted to kidnap aid workers from the Dabaab refugee camp near the border with Somalia.

“We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Nairobi and the Mombasa region, including Diani Beach, due to the high threat of terrorist attack and high level of crime. We also continue to strongly advise Australians not to travel to border regions with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, because of the extremely dangerous security situation. Elsewhere in Kenya we advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution.”

Speaking of the TUI decision to pull holidaymakers out of Kenya, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said on Friday there may have been a tip-off from an informant that al-Shabab, based in Somalia, was planning an attack.

“What sources are saying is that it is specifically Westerners they are after – either by kidnap or blowing them up,” Gardner said.

Written by : Peter Needham

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