Kenya downplays reported airport threat

2016-02-29 19:34
Rural Kenya. (File)

Rural Kenya. (File)

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Mogadishu - Kenyan airports "are not under any imminent threat," the country's airport authority said on Monday in an attempt to calm the public after an internal memo leaked to the press described plans by al-Shabaab Islamists to attack airports.

"We wish to inform the general public that the aviation industry is very sensitive to all security matters. We take proactive action on any intelligence information, however frivolous it may seem," the Kenya Airports Authority said in an official statement in response to the media reports.

"Normal operations are ongoing," it added.

The Standard newspaper and other Kenyan media earlier quoted a Kenya Airports Authority document addressed to airport managers stating that extremist attacks were planned for February and early March and that they "mainly target domestic flights and operatives posing as passengers intend to blow themselves up during landing,"

An airport authority spokesperson confirmed to dpa the authenticity of the document.

Eleven suicide bombers "have undergone training within Somalia on airborne suicide missions in readiness for the attacks," the memo continued, urging airport managers to "ensure that every measure is applied to prevent any such eventuality."

Kenya is frequently targeted by Somali extremists al-Shabaab over the presence of about 4 000 Kenyan troops forming part of a 22 000-strong African Union contingent battling the Islamists in Somalia.

Meanwhile, the death toll in an al-Shabaab attack in Baidoa in southern Somalia rose to at least 30, the city's mayor Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed said.

The death toll from Sunday's attack - previously given as 21 - went up after more people died in hospital.

Several of the 60 injured victims were in critical condition, Mohamed said.

Sunni fundamentalists

Regional top official Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden appealed to national and international support to care for the victims, saying the region did not have sufficient medical facilities to do so.

The attacks saw one person blow himself up at the popular restaurant Beder, while a second person detonated a car bomb remotely in front of another restaurant, named Reedo, police said earlier.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility shortly after the attack in Baidoa, which lies about 220km west of the capital Mogadishu.

The attack came two days after al-Shabaab attacked a luxury hotel and parking garage in Mogadishu, killing 22.

The Sunni fundamentalists have been fighting for years to create a religious state within Somalia.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud vowed to launch new military attacks to force al-Shabaab out of areas it controls in southern and central Somalia.

The Somali president cancelled a Wednesday scheduled visit to Stockholm over the attacks, Swedish Foreign Ministry said.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  kenya  |  east africa  |  air travel

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