Foreign Office warns British tourists to leave Mombasa over terrorist threat


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The Independent Online

Kenya has reacted furiously after the Foreign Office warned British tourists to immediately leave one the country’s most important resorts because of the threat of terrorism.

In an updated travel advisory the Foreign Office said all British tourists and residents currently in and around Mombasa should get out.

The FCO said they estimated that around 5,500 Britons currently in the area would be affected and no one else should travel to the area until further notice. A spokesman said that the warning had been “intelligence-led” but would not say if they were aware of a specific terrorism threat. So far America has not followed suit in warning its nationals to leave Mombasa.

The warning is a blow to Kenya’s already troubled tourist industry which relies on more than 100,000 British visitors a year, many of whom combine safaris with beach holidays in Mombasa.

Mwenda Njoka, the interior ministry spokesman, described the warning as “unfortunate and irrational” and pointed out that UK was also under terrorist threat.

“Every part of the world is nowadays prone to high threat from terrorism, including Britain,” he said.

“Here in Kenya we've taken a number of measures to mitigate against threats and significantly minimized occurrence of the same and as such for any country to issue travel advisory against Kenya it is an unfortunate and irrational move.”

But there have been a string of recent attacks in and around Mombasa in recent weeks.

Last week three people died when an improvised explosive device went off at a bus shelter while another device exploded outside a hotel used by foreigners. No one was injured in the second attack.

In April three gunmen opened fire on a church service in Likoni, near Mombasa, killing six people and wounding 18 others, while in January 10 people were wounded in a grenade attack on a night club in Diani, a popular coastal resort area near the city.

In its advisory the Foreign Office said: “We advise against all but essential travel to Mombasa island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north to Tiwi in the south.

“If you are currently in an area to which we now advise against all but essential travel, you should consider whether you have an essential reason to remain. If not, you should leave the area.”

A Foreign Office source said they did not take the move “lightly” and said it had been decided at ministerial level.

“We are aware of the concerns this will cause in Kenya,” they said. “But the safety of British nationals is our priority and this decision was very carefully thought through.”