New Terror Alerts Warn of Danger in East Africa, Southeast Asia

Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13pm EDT
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Pacific Rim Bureau/Nairobi, Kenya ( - In the wake of this week's deadly bombings in Saudi Arabia, the United States and other governments have issued warnings that terrorists may strike next in East Africa and Southeast Asia, with civilian aircraft said to be one possible target.

Kenya has placed its security on full alert, and all British airlines have grounded flights to Kenya until further notice, citing threats to aviation.

A British travel agents' association said the instruction came from the Department of Transport, which said the threat level had been upped to "imminent."

The Kenyan government criticized the British decision and stressed that its national carrier would continue flying.

Terrorists late last year failed in an attempt to shoot down an Israeli chartered plane as it took off from a Kenyan airport, but others succeeded in a simultaneous car bomb attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in a Kenyan seaside resort.

Four years earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was bombed at the same time the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Tanzania was hit. Hundreds died in the attacks, which were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The U.S. State Department has now warned of "credible" new threats in East Africa and recommended that Americans defer all non-essential travel to Kenya.

The advisory warned that planned attacks might target civil aviation, involve the use of shoulder-fired missiles and be "severe."

"Kenya might not be able to prevent such attacks."

The department said that seaports, civilian housing, hotels, churches, beaches and U.S. commercial interests such as fast-food restaurants might also be targeted.

Kenyan Security Minister Chris Murungaru told reporters in Nairobi that a key member of al Qaeda was suspected to have returned to Kenya and was plotting attacks against American and British interests.

He released the picture of the suspect, Fazuk Abdulla Mohammed, saying he was originally from the Comoros Islands, in his late 20s and spoke five languages, including Arabic.

Murungaru said security agents had established that Abdulla was actively involved in the 1998 embassy bombings and this past year's attacks against the Israeli targets.

Abdulla was last seen in Mogadishu in neighboring Somalia, from where he evidently visits Kenya at will.

Murungaru said security had been intensified at vital U.S. and British installations, and he called on the public to cooperate with security forces by providing any possible information about planned attacks.

Kenyan police Wednesday seized a light aircraft that landed at a coastal tourist resort, arresting 10 Somalis. Investigations are continuing.

Meanwhile, attention has again fallen on Southeast Asia, where previous terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines have cost the lives of hundreds of Asians and Westerners.

U.S. officials have warned that the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) group may strike in Malaysia, with the state of Sabah considered particularly vulnerable.

Sabah is located across the Sulu Sea from the southern Philippines, where the Islamic militant group, Abu Sayyaf, has in the past abducted Westerners. Two Americans are among those who have been killed by the gang.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade widened the warning, saying terrorists were planning attacks on foreigners in the region as a whole and cited countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

The trials have begun in Indonesia of suspected JI operatives accused of carrying out this past October's bombing in Bali, which killed more than 200 people, almost half of them Australian tourists.

The alleged mastermind, a militant named Imam Samudra, shouted out a threat this week as he was being moved by police from a prosecutor's office in Bali, telling journalists and cameramen: "After Riyadh, there will be more... America will be destroyed."

At least 34 people, including eight Americans and an Australian, were killed in simultaneous suicide bomb attacks in the Saudi capital on Monday.

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