UK Tourists Evacuated in Kenya Amid Fears of al-Shabaab Terrorist Attack

Image: UK Tourists Evacuated in Kenya Amid Fears of al-Shabaab Terrorist Attack Tourists queue to check-in at the airline counter as they being evacuated at Moi International Airport in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.

Friday, 16 May 2014 07:09 AM

By Michael Mullins

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UK tourists are being evacuated from Kenya over fears they will be targeted by Muslim extremists linked to the Somalia-based Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab.

On Thursday, tour operators Thomson and First Choice canceled all flights to Mombasa until October while Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a warning to tourists in the Eastern African state, advising non-essential travelers to stay clear of the capital city of Nairobi and the area near the Kenya-Somali border, the BBC reported.

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The United States, Australia, and France also issued travel advisories this week, Reuters reported.

As of Friday morning, approximately 400 British tourists have reportedly been flown back to the United Kingdom as a precaution by Thomson and First Choice.

Kenyan officials responded to the alerts by calling them "unfriendly," while adding that such a warning would only heighten panic within the nation and thereby benefit those who were behind the recent gun and grenade assaults in Nairobi and the coastal resort of Mombasa.

Explosions in both cities earlier this month, one of them at a luxury seaside hotel, killed seven people, although no one was hurt in the hotel attack. Kenya blamed the blasts on the al Qaida-linked Somali group al-Shabaab, Reuters reported.

In addition to the risk from small arms fire and explosive devices, The Guardian U.K. reported that there is also a concern the tourists would be targeted for kidnappings.

According to Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, there are believed to be some 5,000 British nationals living along Kenya's coastline, of which about 500 are in the city of Mombasa and its surrounding area.

What exactly triggered the travel advisory is unknown, however BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner reports it was likely that authorities received a tip from an informant within al-Shabaab that the terrorist organization was planning an attack.

"They've obviously picked up some kind of inside information, probably from an informant, or intercepted signals intelligence that al-Shabaab are planning to carry out some kind of attack inside Kenya," Gardner said in the BBC report. "Not necessarily directed at British citizens, but Westerners have always been a target of theirs."

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