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U.S. Embassy in Kenya closed after threat

Official: Intelligence points to plane or truck bomb attack

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has been closed after what intelligence sources say is a possible threat.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has been closed after what intelligence sources say is a possible threat.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence agencies have uncovered information about a possible al Qaeda terrorist plot on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, prompting the embassy to close, intelligence and diplomatic sources said.

On Thursday, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report to government agencies and officials in the East Africa region, warning of a threat to U.S. interests in Kenya, intelligence sources said.

The threat is deemed specific, credible and continuing, and the United States is "taking it very seriously," officials said.

A senior U.S. official said the threat information pointed to a plane or a truck bomb being used as the terror "weapon of choice."

Two U.S. State Department officials said Friday that the target was the new embassy in Nairobi, built to replace the one destroyed in a terrorist attack in 1998. The embassy was closed Friday and probably will remain closed through Tuesday, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.

Kenya and the Horn of Africa have long been centers of al Qaeda activity. U.S. authorities blame al Qaeda for the near-simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in 1998.

"East Africa has been an area of terrorist threats and indeed terrorist attacks in the past," Reeker said. "Those threats are still out there."

In November, suspected al Qaeda terrorists attacked an Israeli hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, killing at least 13 people. The same day, would-be terrorists tried to shoot down an Israeli-chartered Boeing 757 with surface-to-air missiles. The plane landed safely, but the incident shocked governments and airlines around the world.

In May, British Airways and Israel's El Al suspended flights into Kenya because of terrorist threats.

Intelligence sources said Thursday's warning was not an extension of those earlier threats but was based on fresh information.

In May, the State Department urged Americans to defer nonessential travel to Kenya. Nonessential U.S. personnel in the country also were urged to leave.

CNN correspondents Andrea Koppel and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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