Mass evacuation of holidaymakers from Kenya

BRITISH holidaymakers were being flown home from Kenya last night as at least ten people were killed in two explosions that rocked the capital, Nairobi.

British tourists queue to prepare to leave the international airport in Mombasa, Kenya. Picture: AP
British tourists queue to prepare to leave the international airport in Mombasa, Kenya. Picture: AP

Thomson and First Choice have cancelled all flights to the east African state’s second city of Mombasa until October and said some 400 holidaymakers would be flown back to the UK as a precaution.

The Foreign Office said there are also around 5,000 British nationals living along the eastern coast and approxi-mately 500 in Mombasa.

The main threat has been linked to the militant al-Shabaab group.

The Islamist movement killed at least 67 people in a gun and grenade raid on a Nairobi shopping mall last September, claiming it as revenge for attacks on its fighters by Kenyan troops in Somalia.

The Foreign Office, along with the United States, France and Australia, warned two days ago about travel to Kenya, before the attacks. It caused a spat with the Kenyan government, whichdescribed the alerts as “unfriendly”.

Holidaymakers were already starting to leave when the blasts went off inNairobi yesterday.

The Kenyan National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) confirmed tenpeople died and 70 people had been injured.

One suspect had been arrested last night. One of the blasts was reported to be on a 14-seat tour bus. Both explosions were in the Gikombna Market area of the city.

The NDOC said the injured had been taken to Kenyatta National Hospital and Guru Nanak Hospital, and that the Red Cross was setting up a blood donation centre.

The blasts – which happened at around 1pm UK time – followed terrorist attacks earlier this month in and around the coastal city of Mombasa.

The Foreign Office has warned of a “high threat” from terrorists in a country popular with British tourists.

Foreign Secretary William Hague last night condemned the bombings. He said: “There can be no place for appalling acts ofviolence such as this in any society. The Kenyan authorities have our full support as they investigate this incident and seek to prevent further attacks.”

The Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel to parts of Mombasa.

Holidaymakers are also being advised to avoid the surrounding area, but not including the tourist areas of Diani or Moiinternational airport.

Alex Dolphin, from Surrey,arrived back at Gatwick yesterday, having spent three days at a resort on Diani Beach.

He said: “I didn’t feel uneasy until we were in a convoy of three coaches parked on the roadside waiting to leave for the airport.

“I was keeping an eye open as we drove through Mombasa.”

Others had mixed views about the way the situation had been handled. One man told the BBC it had been “a shambles”, but others said tour companies were “very professional” and had “done the right thing”.

British aid worker Jonathan Tench said he heard about the explosions and spent time trying to make sure no-one he knew had been hurt.

He said: “It’s so sad to think that it’s poor, ordinary Kenyans being targeted.

“I have been coming to Kenya for a long time and this is really the first time that I’ve felt like my security is under threat.”

The Foreign Office advice states: “There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. The main threat comes from extremists linked to al-Shabaab, a militant group that has carried out attacks in Kenya in response to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. There has been a spate of small-scale grenade, bomb and armed attacks in Nairobi (especially the area of Eastleigh), Mombasa and North Eastern Province. You should take care in public places, and exercise a heightened level of vigilance.”

In the past few days, the Kenyan government had pledged to step up security for tourists following a number of terrorist-related incidents.

The first plane carrying Thomson and First Choice holiday company tourists arrived yesterday at Gatwick airport.

A second plane was due back from Mombasa last night, while two passengers with long-haul travel company Kuoni were also being flown home yesterday.

The firm said it was not offering any more holidays to the Kenyan coast for the time being.

According to reports, Thomson has about 400 customers in Kenya, including those in Mombasa and on safari.

UK travel organisation Abta advised: “Anyone still travelling in the affected areas should make contact with their travel provider. The Diani area remains unaffected by the change to advice. Flights into Nairobi also remain unaffected.”

An Abta spokeswoman added: “Alternative destinations or full refunds will be offered to consumers travelling on package holidays to affected areas for as long as the advice remains in place.”