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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 17:04 GMT
Kenyan port on terror alert
By Noel Mwakugu
BBC, Mombasa

The Kenyan Government affirms that its security machinery is on high alert to counter any possible threats on the safety of its people and foreigners.

This follows the latest United States warning that extremists groups such as al-Qaeda may attack sea ports in East Africa, as the war against terror intensifies.

Kenyan soldiers on guard at the remains of the Paradise Hotel last year
Last year's Paradise Hotel attacks were blamed on al-Qaeda
The latest alert has caused anxiety within Kenya's maritime and tourism industry.

A few hours after the alert was issued by the US State Department, 368 passengers disembarked from the Mv Minevva cruise ship at the port of Mombasa.

Armed security personnel were on high alert, strategically positioned at the quay side restricting access to it.

Even unauthorised port officials could not reach the vessel.

Taxi operators and even curio dealers eager to make a business killing admitted having had an unusually rough time.

Negative impact

The chairman of the National Committee on Port and Maritime Security, Captain Khamis Twalib, said that this kind of treatment was being given to every cruise ship and even some cargo ships calling at the Mombasa port.

Zanzibar beach
Zanzibar's tourist industry has also suffered

Captain Twalib said although they had not received the latest alert, they had intensified security measures at the port of Mombasa since the 28 November attack at the Mombasa paradise hotel in Kikambala.

The Coast Provincial Commissioner Cyrus Maina said all security personnel are on high alert, ready to counter any activity that threatens safety on the Kenyan coast, including potential terrorists.

The latest travel alert by the State Department is however expected to have a negative impact on cruise ship traffic to the Kenyan coast, according to the local chairperson of the association of tour operators, Tasneem Adamaji.

After a rather low winter tourism season, Ms Adamaji said they were anticipating to make better business on the cruise shipping sector, but the alert may also scare the ships away.

She however expressed confidence on security measures being undertaken by the new Kenyan Government in the face of possible attacks.

Security code

There are already fears that the popular Queen Elizabeth II cruise liner that is expected in Mombasa next week with about 4,000 passengers on board may change its voyage in response to the alert.

Last October, western intelligence agencies warned of possible al-Qaeda attacks on tankers, cruise ships and merchant vessels within the Pacific, Indian ocean and the Gulf region.

And in response to the looming threat to the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organisation has established a new security code, the international ship and port security code, that must be enforced by world sea ports for them to be considered safe.

The code requires that each stake holder in the industry including government, should develop competent maritime security plans and establish security departments to enhance safety in the sector.

Ports that do not adhere to the code by July next year will be classified as unsafe destinations.


SEE ALSO:
New East Africa terror warnings
14 Mar 03 |  Africa
Zanzibar pays terror price
28 Jan 03 |  Africa
Mombasa nightclub attacked
18 Dec 02 |  Africa


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