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UK issues travel advisory to citizens visiting Kenya over Al-Shabaab raids

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - The British government has issued a travel advisory to her citizens visiting Kenya over increased Al-Shabaab attacks, calling for "extra vigilance".

An estimated 200,000 United Kingdom citizens visit Kenya annually according to the data released by Kenya's Ministry of Tourism, Daily Nation reports.

In the travel advisory, London urged caution especially on entertainment joints, bars and pubs among other sites that can be targeted by terrorists.

Kenya has been frequently targeted by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants who have caused havoc across the East Africa region.

Advisory is the first in as many years

The travel advisory, which was updated on Saturday by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), does not include safari destinations and beach resorts on the Coast.

It has also excluded Lamu Island and Manda Island, the famous tourist attraction centers which are frequented by foreigners.

“(FCO) advises against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Garissa County, Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island)," read the notice.

"Areas of Tana River County north of the Tana River itself and within 15km of the Coast from the Tana River down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river,” the FCO said in a statement.

Coast and Northeastern regions targeted

The coastal region and Northeastern part of the country have experienced Al-Shabaab coordinated attacks in the recent past.

Last week, the militants raided Camp Simba which hosts US Marine corps and KDF troops, killing one serviceman and two contractors.

The US, a close partner of Kenya in the war against terrorism, has since deployed elite East Africa Response Forces to the region for reinforcement.

AFRICOM Commander Gen Stephen Townsend said, "we are assessing the situation and we shall establish the truth on what transpired."

Al-Shabaab attacks foiled

While Kenya has been on the receiving end, security forces have often managed to foil Al-Shabaab attacks, showcasing commitment in counterterrorism missions.

For instance, said forces on Friday night repulsed Al-Shabaab gunmen at Olla in Mandera North where they had tried to raid a police station.

At Soretho in Garissa last week, two Al-Shabaab militants were killed by security forces after yet another attempt to raid a police post.

But at least six Kenyans were abducted by the Al-Qaida associated group in December 2019. Their whereabouts are yet to be established.

Attempted raid at British military base

Al-Shabaab militants have often targeted security forces and foreigners in the country. This has led to increased surveillance.

Last week, three men were arrested by Kenyan security officers after trying to force their entry to the British military base in Laikipia.

Col. Cyrus Oguna, the government spokesperson, said: "We are interrogating them to establish the motive behind their conduct."

A day after the US Naval Base raid in Lamu, a Somali-Canadian national was also arrested in Nairobi while taking photos of Moi Air Base, authorities said.

Al-Shabaab persistent threats

The travel advisory comes at the time Al-Shabaab militants are unbowed in their series of retaliatory attacks against the US and her allies for "occupying Muslim lands".

In a statement, Al-Shabaab said "Kenya should lose sleep. We shall target tourists and other US interests in the coming days."

Nairobi has since beefed up security in buildings associated with the US and her allies, with the government taking no chances to secure the country.

The travel ban could affect the foreign income generated from tourism which accounts to also 3.6 percent of Kenya's GDP, analysts say.


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