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Kenya calls flight ban 'extreme'

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A 1998 bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi killed 214.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The British Department for Transport has advised British-based airlines to stop flying to and from Kenya and said Britons in that nation should take care because of "a credible terrorist threat to Western interests."

But Kenya has hit back at the warning, calling it "extreme" and saying it represents a moral victory for the terrorists.

"We advise against non-essential including holiday travel to Kenya, in light of the risk there of global terrorist activity. British nationals in Kenya should keep a low profile and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places," the department said in a notice posted on its Web site Thursday.

"British airlines were advised on 15 May to suspend flights to and from Kenya," it added.

"The Kenyan government warned on 15 May of the dangers of a terrorist attack by an individual they believe to have been involved in earlier terrorist incidents in Kenya," the statement said.

British Airways immediately suspended all flights to and from Kenya "until further notice", the airline said in a statement.

"The move follows instructions from the British government's Department for Transport that all UK registered airlines which fly to Kenya are to suspend flights... due to heightened security concerns," BA said in a statement Thursday.

The Department for Transport was quoted by the UK's Press Association as telling airlines that "the threat level to UK civil aviation interests in Kenya has increased to imminent."

The department added that "accordingly, from 10pm (2100 GMT) tonight UK time all UK airline operations to and from Kenya must be suspended."

Kenya Airlines said in a statement it will continue with its daily flights.

Kenya's security chief, Chris Murunguru, said the suspension of flights to his country and advising citizens not to travel there was an overreaction.

"The action taken by the British government was extreme, and action like this means they are giving terrorists a moral score," he said.

He had released information Wednesday on a person identified as "Fazul," who he said was known to be an active plotter and participant in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and in the bombing of a hotel in Mombassa last November.

No specific threats

But he said Thursday officials knew of no specific threats connected to him, and security has been stepped up in British and American installations.

In the wake of Monday's bombings that killed 34 in Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials have said intelligence suggests more terror attacks were possible soon in Kenya and Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Malaysia.

Last December the UK government closed its embassy in Nairobi for four days after a double attack by suspected al Qaeda-linked terrorists. (Full Story)

Thirteen people died in an attack on the Israeli-owned resort hotel, while nearly simultaneously an unsuccessful missile strike was attempted on an Israeli charter jet.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed when three suicide bombers detonated a car bomb outside the Paradise hotel in Mombasa. Within minutes, the airliner taking off from the Mombasa airport with 271 aboard was brushed by two shoulder-fired missiles.

Until the latest flight-grounding ruling, the warning to tourists to Kenya, issued by the U.K. Foreign Office, said: "The risk of global terrorist activity in Kenya remains high.

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"Although the vast majority of visitors to Kenya enjoy a trouble-free stay, all visitors to Kenya should take all sensible precautions and be extremely vigilant especially in public places. Crowds and demonstrations should be avoided. Keep abreast of international and local news."

The advice added: "In particular there is a potential threat against Western interests in Nairobi."

About 100,000 Britons holiday each year in Kenya.

The British move comes as the U.S. and Australian governments renewed terror alerts this week for their citizens for many Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malyasia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Both cited continued intelligence suggesting further attacks were being planned against Westerners or Western interests in those countries. (Full story)

The United States and Australia also issued fresh travel advisories for Kenya.


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