The Kenya Airports Authority has allayed fears of an imminent terrorist attack on Kenyan airports by the Somalia-based Al Shabaab group. The terror alert, contained in an internal memo by KAA security manager Eric Kiraithe and which appears to have been leaked to the public, has caused panic across Kenya’s airspace and even internationally.
According to the Memo, intelligence reports have shown planned terror attacks on main airports in Nairobi and Mombasa. The internal memo at Kenya Airports Authority sent to all airport managers across the country warns that suicide bombers have been undergoing airborne suicide training in Somalia for the mission.
But the KAA Acting Managing Director Yatich Kangugo says airports are not under any imminent threat. “I want to report that normal operations are ongoing,” he said in a statement released a short while ago, but added that the authority has, nevertheless, raised its operational threat category to high alert in conjunction with all other national security organs who have increased vigilance to counter any potential threat.
Mr Kangugo said the information about the security situation was released prematurely without due verification by the threat assessment experts from the National Aviation Security Committee (NAVSEC) agencies.
“The aviation industry is very sensitive to all security matters. We take proactive action on any intelligence information however frivolous it may seem.”
The intelligence information says the attackers are likely to target domestic flights and identifies Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport in Mombasa as main targets.
An attack on Kenyan airports could paralyse operations at these key installations with far reaching ramifications to national security, transportation and communication globally. JKIA is particularly critical, being a regional aviation hub for connecting to numerous other destinations. While home to Kenya Airways, JKIA hosts a number of global airlines including British Airways, Emirates, Air Arabia, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways, among others.
Wilson Airport, the busiest in the region, is Kenya’s operational centre for local flights and an attack would cut off a crucial artery that keeps the Kenyans skies buzzing. And so would an attack Mombasa and Eldoret international airports.