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Kenya Downplays Danger of Terror Attack - 2003-12-03

Kenyan officials are downplaying the danger of a terrorist attack against two major hotels in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. But, Kenyan security forces have been put on high alert.

Kenya's foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka told reporters Wednesday there was no cause for alarm, and urged the public to remain calm.

He also urged foreign governments not to issue travel advisories against the East African country. "I think the police were on top of it. 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," he said.

Mr. Musyoka said anonymous phone calls made on Tuesday warning of possible bombs in downtown Nairobi offices was a hoax.

Mr. Musyoka said he fears the latest incident will give the country a bad name.

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 said 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, said there is no substance to the terrorism threat. Still, he says, the police have tightened security.

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.