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Kenya thwarts terror attacks in coastal city during festive season

Thursday, January 03, 2013

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Kenyan authorities successfully managed to thwart possible terror attacks in the coastal city of Mombasa during the festive season as number of tourist soared due to lull in terror attacks in the tourism resort city.

Regional police commander, Aggrey Adoli attributed achievement to the heightened security and arrest of four terror suspects on December 16, 2012 in the Coastal city who had sneaked into the country from Somalia.

"We had a very fruitful festive season with no incident related to terrorism reported, but we urge foreigners and locals to remain vigilant and share information to police," Adoli told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot is one of various cities targeted by a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.

Kenya's tourism has suffered a decline in the number of tourists arriving since September 2011 when the Somali militant group, the Al-Shabaab, carried out the kidnappings of tourists in the Lamu archipelago and the kidnapping of the Spanish volunteers.

Police believed the four arrested at Mariakani town had bombs, mainly grenades, ready for detonations that are hidden in a house in the Mombasa city largely frequented by foreigners during festive season.

Adoli said police deployments had been made at strategic areas known to be key terrorist targets, and members of the public were urged to cooperate.

"We had intensified security in key installations including hotels frequented by foreigners, locals and other crowded public places including churches," he said.

He said the police was playing a pivotal role in ensuring that terrorism and other forms of criminal activities threatening the country's security were minimized if not eliminated.

There had been several grenade and bomb attacks across the East African nation especially in Mombasa, Nairobi and northern region, killing several people including policemen and injuring dozens others.

Kenya has been blaming Somalia's Al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab militants and their sympathizers residing in the country for a spate of attacks in Kenya in recent years especially in the three regions.

However, the insurgents have not publicly claimed responsibly for the recent spate of bomb and grenade attacks which has left more than 20 people dead and dozens others injured in the past 3 months.

Stakeholders in the tourism sector said the number of international and domestic market improved as result of assured security from the police.

"Hotels registered bookings of between 90 and 100 percent for the period between Christmas and New Year," said Sam Ikwaye CEO Hotelkeepers Association in the coastal region.

"Generally the industry has bounced back. We are optimistic it will pick up this year but we urge for a peaceful March 4 Kenya presidential elections," Ikwaye told Xinhua.

He said during the festive season two cruise ships docked in Mombasa with over 1,000 tourists from Britain and Germany, an indication that the tourism sector is slowly picking up.

MV Deutschland, a German flag cruise ship, with more than 411 tourists and 217 crew members on board docked and MV Nautical US flag ship, with about 654 tourists from Britain, and 401 crew members docked at port of Mombasa on December 24, 2012 and December 31 respectively.

The cruise ship tours into Mombasa has been on a steep decline since November 2005, when the Somali pirates first attacked a luxury cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, operated by a Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line as it sailed towards Mombasa.

Somali pirates attempted to board the ship and rob its occupants after firing three rocket-propelled grenades, at its American, European and Australian passengers. The ship survived by unleashing its defenses.

Kenya Tourist Board director Mureithi Ndegwa said the arrival cruise ships in is an indication that the cruise tourism and entire sector is recovering

"Its sends strong signal sector and cruise tourism is gaining momentum and the tourists have now gained confidence of our peaceful coastline for safe tourist destination," Ndegwa said.

Kenya's coastal towns are the backbone of the country's thriving tourism industry, which has been hit by the fear of terror attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners by Somali pirates from resorts near the border with Somalia.

The cruise ships in the Kenya dropped drastically by for first part of 2012 due to piracy off the coast of neighboring Somalia.

Kenya's core tourism products have been focused on beach and safari owing to the country's extended coast line of 480km and abundance of wildlife.

However, the growing competitive nature of tourism and the continuously evolving tastes and preferences of consumers, the country's promoted products have been enriched to include adventure, culture, ecotourism, sports, golf, birding and business.

Despite their continued promotion, some of these identified products are yet to be packaged for tourism consumption thus presenting Kenya with the opportunity to further develop its product portfolio.

Focus on Kenya's tourism product has been more focused on delivering service as opposed to improving quality from service delivery aspect.

The affected cruise lines are those operating in the Indian Ocean area, around the Kenyan coast and other popular vacation destination such as Mauritius, Seychelles and the Comoros.

In 2012, not a single cruise ship docked on Kenya's port until December 24, 2012 when MV Nautica US flag ship, with about 654 tourists from Britain, and 401 crew members arrived.

"The arrival of the two ships follows successful capture of the port city of Kismayo by Kenya Defense Forces under umbrella of African Mission in Somalia AMISOM," said Ndegwa.

Kenya, which launched a military operation to flush out Al- Shabaab terrorist elements inside Somalia after a series of kidnappings, is also grappling with the negative travel advisories issued by the European and the US after the kidnappings in the tourist havens of Lamu.

He blamed the foreign envoys for not advising their respective countries to lift the advisories which he said were hurting the country's tourism industry.


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