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Security Concerns Force Closing of Norwegian Embassy in Kenya - 2003-05-30

The Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya says it has closed most of its embassy to the public, for security reasons. The embassy is on edge, after receiving an e-mail this week, which threatened to destroy the building that houses the embassy and the embassies of several other European countries.

Norway's ambassador to Kenya, Kjell Harald Dalen, tells VOA that the embassy has closed its visa section, and will restrict public access to the rest of the embassy at least until June 12.

Ambassador Dalen says the embassy went on a high security alert on Thursday, after it was notified of an e-mail sent to the Italian embassy. The e-mail, sent anonymously, threatened to destroy, on Thursday, the high-rise building that houses the embassies of both countries, along with the embassies of Finland, Sweden and Spain. "We discussed the e-mail that had come into that [Italian] embassy," said Ambassador Dalen. "And we had some internal meetings and decided to close for the rest of the day."

Mr. Dalen says the Norwegian Embassy began tightening security immediately after a purported top aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to strike at embassies and commercial interests of the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Norway. The al-Qaida message was delivered through an audiotape that aired on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Television on May 22.

Norway has expressed surprise at being named as a potential al-Qaida target. The northern European country has contributed troops to the international security force in Afghanistan, but it remained neutral in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A spokesman for the Kenyan police in Nairobi, Mituki Jesse, says there have been a number of false reports about potential terrorist threats in the capital in recent weeks. But he says that every report is being investigated. "Some of them could be hoaxes and some of them could be real," he said. "So, we don't take any chances when it comes to such threats."

Earlier this month, a number of European countries, along with the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, issued terror warnings for east Africa, and in some cases, Kenya specifically.

The warnings are linked to reports that an alleged al-Qaida operative, suspected in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the November 28 attack on a hotel in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, has resurfaced in Kenya.

Norway's ambassador says his embassy will conduct a review on June 12 to assess the security situation in Nairobi, before fully opening to the public.