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Kenya heightens airport security after Shabaab intel

Paramilitary police officers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. Photo/ FILE

Paramilitary police officers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. Photo/ FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 29 – Security has been heightened in airports across the country following intelligence reports of planned terror attacks by Al Shabaab.

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) acting Managing Director Yatich Kangogo confirmed the existence of a memo advising all airport managers to be alert, but said the information was released to the public prematurely.

He emphasized the need for vigilance especially within the airports and stated that KAA was acting on the information to ensure security is tight in all areas.

“Of course KAA is aware of the prevailing global terrorism threats which have been issued among others by Al Shabaab who have gone public and issued threats against Kenya,” he stated. “We have consequently raised our operational threat category to high alert in conjunction with other national security organs who have also increased vigilance to counter any potential threats.”

He stressed that aviation security is very sensitive to all security matters and proative action is normally taken on any intelligence information however small it is.

“In respect to this particular information, my office acted on the first informer. However, the material was released prematurely without awaiting the due verification by the threat assessment experts from the National Aviation Security Committee (NAVSEC),” he pointed out.

He further encouraged the public to volunteer information on any person engaging in suspicious activity so that quick action can be taken.

“The public is urged to be constantly vigilant an inform law enforcement of any information on suspicious activity as they glo about their work,” he said.

“This information which was circulated in the social media has gone viral and is creating panic among the general public. I want to urge everyone that they should not circulate that kind of information.”

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The internal memo sent to all Airport Managers across the country warns that suicide bombers have been undergoing airborne suicide missions in Somalia for the mission.

Read: Terrorists targeting Kenya airports: police

The memo dated February 26 is signed by the Kenya Airports Authority Security Manager Eric Kiraithe who says the attackers are likely to target domestic flights.

It specifically identifies Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport in Mombasa as main targets with focus on domestic flights.

The warning comes barely three weeks after a bomb attack on a Daallo Airlines passenger plane shortly after take-off from Somalia’s main airport, killing one person.

The blast punched a one-metre (three-foot) hole in the side of the Airbus A321 about 15 minutes after it had taken off from Mogadishu heading for Djibouti.

A passenger identified as Abdulahi Abdisalam was killed, probably after being propelled out of the aircraft in the explosion, investigators said.

Another two out of around 60 passengers on board were slightly injured.

The pilot, a 64-year-old Serb named Vladimir Vodopivec, told a friend that he was convinced the blast had been caused by a bomb, according to the Serbian daily Blic.

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The explosion did not damage the plane’s navigation system, and this is what enabled the pilot to make the emergency landing, the report said.

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