Accessibility links

Kenya Under Alert  Following Terror Warnings - 2003-05-15

Security measures have been stepped up in Kenya following warnings by the Kenyan and U.S. governments that a terrorist attack is likely. Kenyan authorities have released a photograph of a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network who they believe is planning the attack.

The Kenyan government has stepped up surveillance of major installations, particularly airports and the U.S. and British embassies, following warnings that there is likely to be a terrorist attack on the country.

Kenyans have been asked to report anything suspicious to the police. But the head of the newly-established anti-terrorism police unit, Matthew Kabetu, insists Kenyans, foreigners, and tourists should rest assured that there is no need to panic because the government has the situation under control.

"Are we more dangerous than New York? No, I do not think so. No, no, they should just come. We have no problem. There is no problem here. This is the most safe," he said. "You are safe in Nairobi I can assure you. We are doing everything possible."

But the United States warns that the Kenyan government might not be able to prevent a planned terrorist attack.

The national security minister, Chris Murungaru has issued a photograph of the man the government believes is masterminding an attack. The man is identified as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Harun. He is one of the United States' most wanted suspected al-Qaida operatives. He was recently reported to be in neighboring Somalia, but is believed to travel freely between the two countries.

The Kenyan government says he was the chief architect of the terrorist attack in which 15 people died last November at the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa. Mr. Mohammed is also believed to have been involved in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, in which more than 200 people died.

Mr. Mohamed is originally from the Comoros Islands. He is aged between 27 and 29 and, according to the FBI wanted poster, likes wearing baseball caps, and is good with computers.

The U.S. alert draws particular attention to the possibility of shoulder-fired missiles being shot at aircraft, as happened in last November's failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli plane leaving Mombasa on the same day the hotel was bombed.

The warning follows suicide bomb attacks on Western compounds that killed 34 people Monday in the Saudi Arabian capital. The attacks are blamed on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.