December 12, 2013
Kenya raps US over 'unfriendly' travel warning after attack
Kenya rebuked the United States for warning its citizens over travel to the east African country after the Sept. 21 Nairobi mall attack, calling the alert "unfriendly" and asking Washington to lift it.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku delivered the diplomatic slap when he updated reporters on a government investigation into the assault carried out eight days ago by Islamist militants on the crowded upmarket Westgate centre.
The attack, which was claimed by the Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab whose fighters fired on shoppers and tossed grenades leaving a trail of victims of all ages, has shocked Kenya and the world.
Although Kenyan police assisted by US, Israeli and European experts are still poring over the partially wrecked mall building, Ole Lenku said the death toll from the attack still stood at 67. Five attackers were also killed.
Besides more than 50 Kenyans, citizens from Britain, France, China, Ghana, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Peru and the Netherlands were also killed.
Ole Lenku expressed Kenya's strong objections to an updated travel advisory issued by the US government to its citizens urging them to "evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism" in the east African country.
Although he did not specifically mention tourism, the minister's comments appeared to reflect Kenyan concern over the impact the attack - and the US travel advisory - could have on the country's $1 billion-a-year tourist industry.
"We are concerned by the advisory which is uncalled for, unnecessary, and unfriendly ... We believe issuing the travel advisory is counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism," Ole Lenku said.
Kenya requested that the United States, "as a friend of Kenya", lift the warning, Ole Lenku said, adding that the country remained calm though in a state of heightened security.
"There have been numerous terror attacks around the globe and traditionally, friendly countries have not done anything to increase the pain of the victim country," Ole Lenku said.
The Nairobi attack was the worst in Kenya since the US Embassy was bombed in the capital by al Qaeda in 1998, killing more than 200 people, mostly Kenyans. Since then, Kenya has been seen by the West as an ally in the fight against terrorism.