16 May 2014

Kenya: New Terror Attacks Hit As Tourists Leave

Photo: Mike Kariuki/Capital FM
Bomb experts and plainclothes police officers gather at the scene of a bus explosion along the Thika super-highway in Nairobi.

Two explosions rocked the Kenyan capital Nairobi only hours after British companies flew out holidaymakers in response to terror alerts issued by the British Foreign Office.

Nairobi's busy Gikomba Market came to a standstill on Friday (16.05.2014) after two blasts killed at least ten people. Police chief Benson Kibue told reporters that two bombs were thrown at a minibus and a clothes store. According to government reports, at least 70 people were injured in the attacks.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was addressing a press conference, sent a message of condolence to the families of the dead. He said the government would strengthen its resolve to fight terror and asked all Kenyans to be vigilant.

Over the past 18 months, more than 100 Kenyans have died in small-scale attacks such as shootings, bomb explosions and grenade attacks.

Travel companies flying out tourists

Just hours before the two attacks on Gikomba Market, British travel companies flew out some 300 tourists after the British government had issued renewed warnings of possible terrorist attacks in Kenya.

"I'm very sad. We don't feel threatened. I think everybody is overreacting. We wanted to stay for our holidays," one tourist told DW while she was checking in for her flight to London.

Bombs were thrown at a minibus and a clothes store in Nairobi

She was one of approximately 300 tourists who had left their hotels in a convoy of buses, guarded by heavily-armed members of Kenya's elite paramilitary unit GSU. On Thursday, some 300 tourists had already left the country on chartered aircraft.

Western countries tell their citizens to stay away

The evacuations come in the wake of a decision by the British Foreign Office to call on its citizens to avoid any non-essential travel to Kenya. The ministry also issued travel warnings for Mombasa and other towns on Kenya's coast.

Two leading British tourism companies have announced that they are suspending all flights to Mombasa until October. The United States, Australia and France also advised their citizens against travelling to Kenya's coastal region.

Several countries have issued travel warnings for Kenya's coastal region

The Kenyan government called the British travel advisory "an unfriendly act" that plays into the hands of terrorists by causing fear and panic. "This concern that insecurity is highest in Mombasa County - we should dismiss it forthwith," Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa told DW. He noted that the advisories would hurt Kenya's economy.

More than 600,000 Kenyans are directly employed in the tourism sector, which provides 12.5 percent of the country's GDP.

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