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US Embassy in Nairobi Re-Opens, 3 Days After Closing in Terror Alert - 2003-06-25


The American Embassy in Nairobi has reopened to the public. The embassy closed last Friday and had remained closed following renewed warnings of a possible terrorist attack in the Kenyan capital.

People seeking visas to the United States waited for hours in lines that stretched around the embassy compound. Many were applicants whose appointments had to be rescheduled because of the three-day closure.

Last Friday, U.S. officials announced they were shutting the embassy's doors as part of an ongoing process to close the mission one day a week to review security measures. The one-day closures have been routine since mid-May, when the United States, Britain and other European countries issued a heightened terror alert in the east African country.

But embassy officials decided to keep the mission closed for two more business days after U.S. intelligence agencies warned of a fresh plot, possibly by the al-Qaida terrorist network, to attack the three-month-old embassy.

American officials will not say how much the threat against the embassy still exists. But they are continuing to urge non-essential embassy personnel to leave Kenya, and a U.S. travel advisory for the country remains in place.

The Kenyan government, which is losing millions of dollars daily in tourism revenue because of the terror threat, says it welcomes the U.S. Embassy reopening as a sign that the overall threat in the country is decreasing. "We are happy that they have opened," said Robinson Githae, Kenya's assistant minister of justice and constitutional affairs. "We are now urging them to go ahead and revoke that travel advisory so that other countries also can now follow suit. America is now the only world power, so there are quite a number of other countries waiting for America to revoke the travel advisory."

The new embassy was built to replace the one destroyed in a terrorist attack here in 1998. The bombing, which killed more than 200 Kenyans, has been blamed on al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida has also claimed responsibility for last November's suicide bombing at an Israeli-owned hotel and the simultaneous, but unsuccessful, attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa.

On Monday, a court in Nairobi charged four Kenyan nationals with 13 counts of murder for their alleged roles in the hotel bombing in Mombasa.

The Kenyan government also recently banned all flights to and from neighboring Somalia, the Muslim country that has not had an effective government for 12 years. It is believed to be one of the main transiting points and staging grounds for al-Qaida operatives in east Africa.

Kenya says it hopes these measures will help assure the international community that the country is doing its best to combat the threat of terrorism.

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