US warns of 'imminent' terror threat in Kenya as Al Shabab promises 'open war'

The US embassy in Nairobi said Saturday that it had received 'credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where foreigners are known to congregate.....'

Khalil Senosi/AP
Kenya Army soldiers in a military parade at Nyayo National Stadium during celebrations of the Heroes Day, in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday. The US embassy in Nairobi said that it received information that indicates there may be a terrorist attack on areas in Kenya that are popular with foreigners.

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The US embassy in Kenya has warned of an “imminent threat” of attacks targeting foreigners a week after Kenya sent troops into neighboring Somalia to fight an Islamist militia in the biggest Kenyan military operation since the country’s independence.

Though the embassy did not specify who was behind the threat, it brings home Kenyans' fears of retaliation by the Islamist Al Shabab group for Nairobi’s military offensive in Somalia.

The American embassy in Nairobi, in a notice posted on its website and reportedly sent to Americans living in and visiting Kenya, said it had received “credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where foreigners are known to congregate, such as malls and night clubs.”

The embassy said it has “taken measures to limit official US government travel to Kenya” and urged Americans to consider deferring travel to Kenya. The alert did not indicate who might carry out the attack, but said the notice expires on Dec. 1. In 1998, bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people.

In response to the notice, issued Saturday, Agence France-Presse reports that officials increased security in Nairobi’s central business district. Security personnel pushed people back from the entrance of a Hilton hotel, and and “conducted identity checks on people who looked as if they could be Somali,” according to AFP.

Last week, Kenya sent several thousand troops into Somalia to fight Al Shabab, which Kenya has blamed for a spate of kidnappings of foreigners inside Kenya. In September, armed men killed a British man and kidnapped his wife. This month, a disabled French woman was kidnapped and later died, and two Spanish aid workers were also kidnapped.

Al Shabab, which controls large swaths of southern Somalia, has denied responsibility for the kidnappings. The group has also threatened retaliation for the invasion.

'Open war' against 'the global Christian invasion'

On Saturday, Al Shabab leader Mohamed Abdi Godane said, according to AFP, “The Islamic regions in Somalia are all on high alert to prepare for the open war that is our response to the incursions by some neighboring countries who are taking part in the global Christian invasion against Somalia." Reuters reports that Al Shabab has warned Kenyan troops to withdraw from Somalia or risk bringing the “flames of war” into Kenya.

Reuters also reports that Kenyan and Somali troops were closing in on an Al Shabab stronghold in southern Somalia Sunday. Reuters called the town of Afmadow “a strategic transit point for goods trafficked illegally through the rebel-controlled Kismayo port, Al Shabab's nerve center for operations.”

If they could drive Al Shabab out of Kismayo, the troops say they would deprive the group of a base for logistics and recruitment.

Kenyans worry about retaliation

But as the Monitor reports, many Kenyans are questioning the operations’ goals and its exit strategy from Somalia, pushed by worries about retaliation.

In neighboring Uganda, Al Shabab launched suicide bombings that killed at least 74 people, saying the attack was retribution for Uganda’s military support of Somalia’s government.

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