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US warns of possible terror attacks on Kenyan airspace

The United States of America (USA) has warned airlines against overflying parts of the Kenyan airspace, citing possible terror threats.

In an advisory dated February 26, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urged all US-registered airlines to be cautious while overflying the Kenyan airspace.

The advisory is informed by assessments that Somalia-based terrorist group, Al-Shabaab remains an active threat in Kenya and remains in possession of weapons capable of hitting aircraft at low altitudes of up to 25,000 feet — putting at risk arrival and departure phases of flights, especially on the popular aviation route through northeastern Kenya and Somalia.

“Such weapons could target aircraft at low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure phases of flight, and/or target airports and aircraft on the ground, especially at airfields located east of 40 degrees east longitude,” the advisory reads in part.

The air route connecting Nairobi to countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, and China is among the routes covered by the FAA warning. Flights using the routes fly over north eastern Kenya counties such as Garissa and exit into Somalia.

Kenya has been a victim of multiple terror attacks by the Al-Shabaab, which controls swathes of southern Somalia from where it regularly launches attacks in Mogadishu, Kenya, and elsewhere.

The attacks in Kenya have been in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as part of an African Union force to degrade the jihadists.

In January 2020, one American soldier and two US contractors were killed after Al-Shabaab fighters attacked a US military base in Lamu.

Somalia-based militant group al-Shabaab has conducted many attacks on Kenyan soil, especially in counties along the vast and porous border with Somalia. But they have never downed a plane.

The only known attempt to bring down an airplane in Kenyan airspace was carried out in 2002, when al-Qaeda operatives fired a missile at an Israeli plane after it took off from Mombasa’s Moi International Airport. The attackers missed their target.

Before the attempt on the flight, three suicide bombers had attacked Israeli-owned hotel, Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi County, killing 15 people and destroying the establishment.

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