Al-Shabaab Terror Attacks and Threats of More Radical Muslim Violence Raise Security Alert To ‘DEFCON 1 COCKED PISTOL’ for Obama’s Kenya Visit Tonight, See The ‘Beast’
Friday, July 24, 2015
“The American president Barack Obama is a high value target so an attack or even an attempt would raise the profile of al-Shabaab,” warned Richard Tutah, a Nairobi-based security and terrorism expert.
Al-Shabaab Terror attack and threats of more violence raise security questions for Obama’s Kenya visit. The terror rampage at Garissa University College in April 2015 was a grim reminder of the logistical and security challenge for the president’s team, and of the growing threat posed by al-Shabaab.
The attack on the northern Kenya university killed nearly 150 people and was followed by a warning from the Somalia-based terror group that Kenyan cities “will run red with blood. Obama’s father, the late Barack Obama Sr., was born and raised in Kenya, and the president still has family there. The White House has not said whether Obama plans to visit relatives while in the country.
The biggest security operation in Kenya’s history is under way as the vulnerable east African nation prepares to welcome its “son”, Barack Obama, for the first time since he reached the White House. The US president was due to touch down on Air Force One on Friday evening for a weekend programme in the capital, Nairobi, that includes an international business summit, dinner with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, and a major public address. Kenya is treating the visit as a chance to shine, akin to an Olympics or a football World Cup, and is all too aware how catastrophic another terrorist attack would be for its image. Three months ago Islamist militants murdered 148 people at a university in Garissa, while an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall left at least 67 people dead less than two years ago. Hundreds of US security personnel have arrived in Kenya in recent weeks and three hotels have been examined by the secret service, according to local media.
Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, usually stationed at the US military base in Djibouti, flew over Nairobi this week alongside a White Hawk helicopter with presidential insignia, Agence France-Presse reported. Other military helicopters have been flown in reportedly from a US special forces facility at Kenya’s Manda Bay base, from which raids on al-Shabaab militants in Somalia are launched. “Nairobi is seen as the second most important US embassy in the world after Moscow because of both Somalia and its proximity to the Middle East,” an American source said. “There are so many missions going on that we don’t even hear about.” Kenya’s civil aviation authority announced that national airspace would be closed for 50 minutes on arrival and 40 minutes on departure, inadvertently revealing the schedule of the president, who will travel without his family.
Obama will then be chauffeured in his bomb-proof limousine, dubbed “the Beast”. The $1.5m car has 20cm-thick steel plates, 13cm-thick bulletproof glass, kevlar-reinforced tyres and a presidential blood bank in the boot. Around 10,000 police officers – roughly a quarter of the national force – were being deployed in the capital and several major roads would be closed to all but emergency and security vehicles. The move prompted many people to stay at home and numerous banks and schools to shut early on Friday. Evans Kidero, the governor of Nairobi county, said: “Security is both visible and invisible. It’s something we’ve been working on even before Obama is coming.”
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