The United States has formally donated to Kenya nearly one million dollars' worth of sophisticated security equipment for use in the country's three major airports. The equipment donation comes amid renewed warnings of a possible terrorist attack in the east African nation.
The U.S ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, presented the security equipment to Kenyan authorities on Wednesday, during a ceremony at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The equipment includes modern baggage X-ray machines, walk through metal detectors and explosive trace detectors. Kenyan officials say the machines will soon be fully operational at Jomo Kenyatta and Wilson Airports in Nairobi and at the Moi International Airport in the coastal city of Mombasa.
The United States purchased the equipment last year as part of a 1998 White House economic initiative called Safe Skies for Africa. The initiative is primarily intended to help Kenya and six other African countries meet U.S. aviation standards. The hope is to boost trade and investments through increased air travel.
But in recent years, enhancing security in Kenya to prevent terrorist attacks has also become a priority for the United States in the global war on terror.
In 1998, terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, killing more than 200 people. Last November, suicide bombers killed 14 people at an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa and attempted to simultaneously shoot down a civilian airliner.
A suspected al-Qaida operative, accused of planning both attacks, is now believed to be in Kenya again, planning more terrorist activities here. Ambassador Carson says Kenyans cannot afford to be complacent about the need to root out terrorism.
"There are, very regrettably, a few Kenyan citizens who have and continue to put outside interest and ideology ahead of the welfare and the well-being of Kenya," the ambassador said. "Kenyan citizens have been involved in the planning and execution of some terrorist acts."
In addition to the equipment, U.S. security officials will soon begin helping Kenyan airports install new computer systems that can help identify potential terrorists. The Safe Skies for Africa program will also provide aviation safety and security training for airport staff.
Mr. Carson says the new airport security enhancements are a tangible symbol of the United States' commitment to help Kenya prevent further acts of terrorism.