The US embassy in Nairobi warned Americans on Saturday of an “imminent threat” of attacks possibly targeting foreigners, one week after Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia to hunt down al-Shabaab fighters.
The embassy cited “credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where foreigners are known to congregate, such as malls and night clubs.”
“The embassy has taken measures to limit official US government travel to Kenya and US citizens should take this information into account when planning travel and consider deferring travel at this time,” the embassy added, in a statement provided by a US Department of State spokesman in Washington.
The statement did not specify who might carry out such attacks.
The State Department issued a travel warning for Kenya in December last year that remains current and warns of “continuing threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime.”
In response to the warnings, officials have beefed up security in Nairobi’s central business district.
On Saturday, security personnel moved bystanders further away from the entrance to the Hilton hotel and conducted identity checks on people who looked as if they could be Somali.
Kenya sent troops across its border with Somalia on Oct. 16 to hunt al-Shabaab insurgents it blames for the abductions of a British tourist, a disabled French woman who has since died in captivity, and two Spanish aid workers.
Kenya has not said how many of its troops are deployed, but analysts estimate the number at between 2,000 and 3,000.
The troops are advancing in a three-pronged movement toward the al-Shabaab-held port city of Kismayo, but their advance has been slowed by bad weather.
The radical Islamist al-Shabaab, which denies kidnapping foreigners, has repeatedly warned of bloody retaliation. The latest threats came on Saturday from al-Shabaab’s leader Mohamed Abdi Godane.
“The Islamic regions in Somalia are all on high alert to prepare for the open war that is our response to the incursions by some neighboring countries who are taking part in the global Christian invasion against Somalia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kenyan troops on Saturday closed in on the rebel-held Somalian town of Afmadow where they may fight their first ground battle against the al-Qaeda-linked militants since launching their offensive, a military spokesman said.
Hundreds of residents were fleeing Afmadow in anticipation of fighting as Kenyan and Somalian troops moved closer.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir said Kenya’s army was flanking Somalian troops and pro-government militia. Afmadow is now controlled by al-Shabaab.
“We believe this movement will create the first ground offensive,” Chirchir said.
Kenya had been bombing militants from the air, but the charge at Afmedow would be first “man-to-man fighting situation,” he said.
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