The US Marine Corps has re-deployed a number of marines to the US Embassy in the Kenyan capital Nairobi following US and regional intelligence reports suggesting that American interests may be attacked shortly by al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Shabaab.
According to the Marine Corps Times, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has confirmed reports which have been circulating in the past two months suggesting that al Shabaab has plans to attack US interests including the embassies in Nairobi and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Military installations at Manda Bay, Kenya and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti are also listed among potential targets in East Africa.
The deployment follows a series of bomb and grenade blasts which have killed dozens of people and left more injured in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa. The attacks, which have been blamed on al Shabaab, were followed up last week with a double-grenade attack which struck a cafe in Djibouti City, killing two people.
Eleven people, including naval servicemen from France, Spain and the Netherlands were injured in the attack. Addressing US citizens in Kenya at a meeting in Nairobi last week, US ambassador Robert Godec said the embassy is fully aware of the threat it faces from al Shabaab.
“We know that there is a threat, and we know it is serious,” Ambassador Godec said. He added that as a precaution, the embassy is continually evaluating and updating its security based on threat-information analysis. He advised U.S. citizens to avoid congregating in large groups at bars or restaurants, especially when watching the upcoming soccer World Cup.
Godec said the embassy is also considering scaling back the number of US diplomatic personnel stationed in Kenya partly by reducing staff at, or moving the East African mission of its biggest aid agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from Kenya to another country.
The US embassy in Nairobi has been operating under the shadow of a terrorist threat since August 1998 when it was hit by a truck bomb which killed 200 people. A simultaneous blast also destroyed the US embassy in the Tanzanian capital. Both blasts were blamed on al Qaeda.
Nairobi embassy chief security officer Marion Cotter was quoted by Kenyan media saying the terror threat in Kenya has risen alarmingly since the first improvised explosive device (IED) attack in the country in August 2012.
In a related development, the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service and the Police Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JTF) yesterday announced that they had broken up two terrorist cells and arrested 25 individuals who were plotting terror attacks in the capital Addis Ababa.
All the detainees are suspected of having links to al Qaeda and al Shabaab. The Ethiopian security services said the cells were broken followed the arrest of man who was found preparing to carry out a bomb attack on an undisclosed target in Addis Ababa.
It came two days after simultaneous terror alerts which were issued on Tuesday by the US and Canadian embassies based on what government security officials in Toronto and Washington described as ‘credible’ reports warning of imminent terror attacks on Western interests in Ethiopia.