News / Africa

Western Governments Warn of Possible Bomb Attacks During African Summit

A handout file photo released by the African Union in Addis Ababa shows the AU flag
A handout file photo released by the African Union in Addis Ababa shows the AU flag

Several Western governments are warning their citizens in Ethiopia of credible threats of terrorist bomb attacks during the African Union summit this week in Addis Ababa. A long list of African leaders and foreign dignitaries will be attending the summit.

Australia’s foreign ministry issued a bluntly worded security alert for Ethiopia on its website.  Diplomats from the United States, Britain and other Western countries said their governments were preparing similar statements.

The warning comes days before at least 25 heads of state and host of other dignitaries are to arrive in Addis Ababa for an African Union summit.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to address the opening session Sunday.

Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa Counselor John Newman says the warning speaks of a high risk of terrorist attacks against Western interests

"According to credible information, extremists are planning to bomb unspecified locations within Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the A.U. summit that will be held 26 through 31, January," he said.

Newman declined to be more specific about the nature of the threat.  But other Western diplomats who asked not to be identified expressed concern about the possibility of attacks by Somali militants.  There is a large Somali refugee population in the Ethiopian capital.

The Somali extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for twin suicide bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala last July, weeks before the city hosted the last A.U. summit.

More than 70 people were killed in the blasts, which struck two public viewing centers during the World Cup soccer finals. 

Al-Shabab has warned of further attacks against Uganda and Burundi, which supply most of the troops for the African Union peacekeeping mission in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.  Ethiopia sent troops to support Somalia’s fragile transitional government in 2006, but withdrew them two years later.

Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Bereket Simon said the government is aware of the heightened threat during the summit, and is monitoring possible terrorist activity closely.  But he told VOA Addis Ababa "has been able to hold safe summits in past years, and are taking all necessary precautions”"

Addis Ababa has been free of terrorist attacks since early 2009, when a series of fatal bomb blasts rocked the capital.

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