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Obama offers US support over JKIA fire

Thursday, August 08, 2013

President Barack Obama has offered US support following a major fire that led to the closure of Kenya's main airport.

In a telephone call to President Kenyatta, the US leader restated his country's unwavering support to Kenya.

President Obama also condoled the families that lost their loved ones during the 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi.

"The President also commemorated this day, the 15th anniversary of al-Qaeda's terrorist attack against the US Embassy in Nairobi, by expressing condolences to the loved ones of those killed and wounded in the attack, and highlighting our continued commitment to countering terrorism around the globe," a statement posted on the White House website said.

Regional leaders also offered their support to Kenya.

Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn telephoned President Kenyatta to offer support, including the use of airports in their own countries while Kenya worked to normalise operations at JKIA.

President Kenyatta also received a call from the President of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka, as well as senior executives from the World Bank, who had immediate offers of financing the rehabilitation of the airport.

“We are encouraged by the support of the US President, my brothers the regional leaders, as well as major financial institutions who all want to see the regional air hub back on its feet quickly,” President Kenyatta said.

“We are determined that normal operations resume at the airport quickly, and are glad to see that a partial reopening has already taken place, with successful domestic flight operations."

On Wednesday, the fire that started at dawn destroyed huge sections of the international arrivals terminal, including the area connecting to Units One and Two, as well as shops, banks, forex bureaux, travel agencies and airline offices.

Teams of forensic investigators, intelligence officers and explosive experts were at the scene to establish the cause of fire.

Passengers who were caught up in the early morning incident were hurriedly evacuated, and some watched helplessly as their luggage was destroyed in the blaze.

President Kenyatta was showed around the ruins and later issued a statement through his spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

“The cause of fire is being investigated and at this point there’s no reason to speculate. There was no loss of life. There was serious disruption of aviation operations at this airport. Contingency measures have been put in place to stabilise the situation and return airport to normal operations,” the President said.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said a team comprising police detectives and intelligence officers had been formed to carry out the investigations.


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