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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 22:05 GMT
Straw defends advice on Kenya travel
Aftermath of Kenya bomb attack
Investigators continue to sift through the rubble
No information was available which could have prevented this week's terrorist attack in Mombasa, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

Mr Straw said travel advice to UK citizens travelling to Kenya had been strengthened following the outrage.

He was responding to Tory calls for an urgent review of international security co-operation.

Two weeks ago, Australians were warned against travelling to Mombasa, the scene of Thursday's terrorist atrocity at a resort hotel.


There is a huge volume of material which is vague, unreliable or deliberately misleading

Jack Straw
Australians in Mombasa who were concerned about their security were also told they should consider departure.

But the Australian advice was not replicated to UK travellers via the Foreign Office website, which continued to carry a general caution.

The site has now been updated to warn of an "increased terrorist threat" in Kenya.

Mr Straw acknowledged that the Australian advice was "more detailed" than that of the UK and the US.

Writing to Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram, he said: "Each country makes its own judgement on how to respond to potential threats.

"In the case of Kenya, the US and UK advice before the Mombasa bombing was very similar.

'Inappropriate'

"The Australian advice was more detailed, mentioning threats in Mombasa and Nairobi."


Serious questions have been asked of your department for which it appears you do not have the answers

Michael Ancram, writing to Jack Straw
He said no information was available which could have prevented the attack in Mombasa, adding that the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, had acknowledged this.

Mr Straw said it would be "grossly inappropriate" to give publicity to every piece of information received by security agencies.

He said: "There is a huge volume of material which is vague, unreliable or deliberately misleading."

He said economic and social life could not be allowed to "grind to a halt and so hand a victory to terrorists".

Questions

The foreign secretary said the safety and security of UK tourists was "paramount".

He said advice on Kenya prior to Thursday's attack had warned of "indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites".

Mr Ancram had called on Mr Straw to explain why the Australians and the French were warning of an attack in Mombasa, but Britain was not.

He asked why the information was not shared automatically with British intelligence agencies, particularly after last month's Bali atrocity when he would have expected new systems to have been put in place.

Mr Ancram wrote: "Serious questions have been asked of your department for which it appears you do not have the answers."

Travel advice

Australian minister Alexander Downer said that since 12 November Australians had been warned to defer all nonessential travel to Mombasa because of "possible terrorist attacks against Western interests."


All visitors should be aware of potential risks and should exercise sensible precautions

Foreign Office advice on Kenya
"This advice was based on intelligence information," Mr Downer said.

"Australia had no specific information about the timing, location or method of the possible attacks."

Australia's travel advisory has now been upgraded to recommend against all nonessential travel to Kenya, the statement added.

Threat

The UK's advice on Kenya now refers to Thursday's car bomb attack on a resort hotel and unsuccessful missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet.

It says: "This incident has highlighted the threat posed by terrorism in East Africa and the capacity of terrorist groups to carry out attacks."

The Foreign Office adds: "Kenya is one of a number of countries in East Africa where there may be an increased terrorist threat.

"UK nationals in Kenya should be vigilant, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.

"In particular there is a potential threat against Western interests in Nairobi."

Bali bomb

The Foreign Office was criticised by opposition parties in the wake of last month's terror attack in Bali, for allegedly not doing enough to warn UK nationals of the potential threat.

Mr Straw said than that the UK had received a "generic" threat in late September which mentioned Bali, as well as "55% of Indonesia's land mass".

But there was "no specific intelligence relating to the attack in Bali", he stressed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram
"This information isn't held tightly - it's published on websites"
Dr John Gearson, security and terrorism expert
"It is very early to say whether Mombasa as a target could have been identified"

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See also:

29 Nov 02 | Africa
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
23 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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