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Britain Lifts Ban on Flights to Mombasa - 2003-09-04

Britain has lifted a three and one half month ban on flights by British airliners to the Kenyan tourist city of Mombasa, the site of last November's terrorist attack on an Israeli-owned hotel.

The British High Commission in Nairobi says British carriers can resume flights to Mombasa. The move follows a security review of the city's Moi Airport, which British officials say is now at a satisfactory level.

British Airways suspended all flights in and out of Kenya in mid-May, following a heightened terrorist alert in the country. In late June, British Airways began flying again to the capital, Nairobi, but flights to Mombasa remained banned.

Kenya's assistant minister for justice and constitutional affairs, Robinson Guthae, says officials here welcome Britain's decision to lift the ban to Mombasa. He says the flight ban discouraged tens of thousands of potential tourists from traveling to Kenya's coast, costing the country's vital tourism industry millions of dollars a day in lost revenue.

"The lifting of the travel ban to Mombasa should see more charter planes coming to Mombasa," he said. "We should see some urgent activity in the tourism industry. It is a very good omen that the tourism industry may start now to start playing its right role."

Mr. Guthae says in recent months, the Kenyan government has worked hard to improve security at all of its airports. The police in Mombasa and Nairobi have also made hundreds of arrests following the devastating terrorist attack in Mombasa last year.

In November, a car bomb exploded at the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in the coastal town, killing more than a dozen people. The attack happened within minutes of a failed terrorist attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner as it took off from the airport in Mombasa.

Both attacks are believed to have been carried out by the al-Qaida terrorist network, which is also blamed for the 1998 twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Despite the decision to lift the flight ban, the British government says it believes a significant terrorist threat still exists in Kenya. Officials say its travel advice to the country will remain under constant review.