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Kenyan Security Forces Put on High Alert for Possible Terrorist Attacks

Kenyan officials are downplaying the reliability of anonymous tips that indicated two major hotels in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, might be bombed by terrorists.

Kenya's foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka told reporters Wednesday the anonymous tips made the day before were bogus. He urged foreign governments not to issue travel advisories against the East African country in reaction to the tips.

"I think the police were on top of it," he said. "There's nothing beyond it. So let us not create the impression there's going to be another blast here when, indeed, there is absolutely no indication."

Mr. Musyoka says he fears the latest incident will give the country a bad name, and appealed for people to be calm.

Police said Tuesday an anonymous caller telephoned security officers at the Hilton and New Stanley hotels, as well as two other buildings, saying that explosives in the buildings were about to go off. Police evacuated the buildings.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Peter Claussen, says the U.S. government also received an anonymous tip about terrorism threats in Nairobi, supposedly to take place over the next few days. He says the message specifically mentioned the two hotels.

Mr. Claussen says the U.S. government immediately put out a public announcement saying officials received the terrorism threat.

"U.S. policy requires that the American public be promptly informed of any information along this line that we are sharing within the government, in other words, no double standard," he said.

Mr. Claussen cautions that the U.S. did not say whether the message was credible.

A Kenyan police spokesman, Kingori Mwangi, says there is no substance to the terrorism threat. Still, he says, the police have tightened security.

"We don't believe it was credible information," he said. "But we believe it was very irresponsible of one of our partners who passed on this information to the public. We had already talked with the management and we had already put officers in the places that we felt it was [a threat]."

The Kenyan economy was hit hard in the middle of this year when the U.S. and British governments issued terrorism alerts against Kenya. This prompted British Airways and other airlines to cancel their flights into the country for more than a month.

Last June, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki asked U.S. President Bush for as much as $400 million to compensate the east African country for the losses in tourism earnings.

The security ministry estimates terrorism alerts and flight bans cost the Kenyan economy around $14 million per week.