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Security beefed up in Mombasa ahead of summit

28 August 2013, 11:34 Joy Nabukewa and Chris Mgidu

Mombasa - Authorities have beefed up security in the port city of Mombasa, the target of a series of grenade attacks and abductions in recent months, ahead of a regional summit on infrastructure development.

The heightened security followed a major terrorism alert that was issued by the police last Thursday after intelligence reports indicated that Al-Qaeda-linked militants may be planning an attack.

Heads of states from South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda will be attending the summit on finding strategies to boost regional economic growth.

"I would like to assure all the visiting heads of state and other visitors that security has been scaled up to deal with any criminal activities in the county," Regional County Commissioner Nelson Marwa told a press conference in Nairobi.

Marwa said security agencies have been put on higher alert to deal with organized criminal gangs, warning of dire consequences against any criminals that may attempt to disrupt the peace in Mombasa.

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

The East African nation'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.

Regional Police Commander Robert Kitur told journalists they have received information that the Somali Islamist group Al- Shabaab was planning a major attack on the anniversary of the late Muslim cleric Sheik Aboud Rogo, who was killed on August 27, 2012.

The controversial Islamic preacher, accused of recruiting for Al-Shabaab, was shot dead in his car while he was driving in Mombasa.

Violent riots erupted across Mombasa and continued for a week. Cars were set alight, several churches were vandalized, and at least five people were killed.

According to intelligence reports shared among top security agencies, four Al-Shabaab fighters crossed into the country two weeks ago from Somalia to executive the plot.

Marwa added that security has been tightened at the Mombasa International Show, which President Uhuru Kenyatta was expected to officially open on Thursday.

Sources indicate that anti-terror police officers were on high alert over fears that militants may target key installations in Mombasa to mark the first anniversary of the killing of the cleric.

"We have installed CCTV cameras in key strategic locations to monitor activities within show ground, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday," Marwa told journalists. "Security has been up scaled and zeroing on information and apprehend those who might attempt to plan any attack."

Kenyatta is also expected to commission a new berth 19 to ease congestion at the port of Mombasa at a ceremony to be attended by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

Kenyatta and other regional leaders will later attend the regional summit, which seeks to improve the efficiency at Mombasa port and other key infrastructures in the East Africa region.

Museveni will also commission the Uganda Car port in the Mombasa port on Tuesday that serves the East African Community (EAC).

Regional police commander Robert Kitur said police officers have been deployed at key installation areas including hotels and along the coastal beaches to avert any possible attacks.

The top security team said they have sufficient security and mechanism to respond to any incident and appealed for cooperation from the residents.

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


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